Inside: Play ideas for kids. Inside you will find the best ideas for sensory play, water play, baby play, morning play, and ways to encourage backyard fun for kids.
Days with Grey is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about these links in my disclosure policy.
I felt the need to get my children playing more and wasn’t exactly sure how to get there.
My kids were saturated by media, toys that light up, and items that blink/make noise at the touch of a button. It seemed as if every gift given to them had a pre-intended purpose, and the novelty lasted a few short minutes.
I felt overwhelmed by the task to minimize the stimulation and encourage my kids to be more creative.
Morning television was zapping the day. Blinking toys were growing old. Our day wasn’t working.
I needed to find solutions.
How do I set up an environment for play?
So I did some research, dug into my teacher brain, and looked for the best toys for kids that encourage open-ended play.
It is up to us to allow more time for play.
Sometimes, toddlers and preschoolers need a small seed planted to get them going.
These seeds will not be planted from a worksheet. The seeds I am talking about are play ideas that encourage children to touch, move, and manipulate objects in order to create.
The more we encourage play, the more children will become exceptional at self-guided play, problem solving, and forming conclusions on how things work.
The following play ideas will allow your preschooler to hit the ground running.
These play ideas as good as that savory cheese dip you get from your favorite Mexican restaurant. 😉 - Tried and true, preschooler approved!
Before we dive into the best play ideas, allow me to set the stage and allow you to better understand the importance of play.
During the infant/toddler stage, the child needs physical experiences using senses, experiencing substances, and discovering how things fit together.
Then at preschool, the child will begin to add social play into the learning they have had the chance to dive into. Now they are making connections with their peers.
During the middle years, the child is more analytical with text book concepts because they had a chance to touch move and explore what they are now reading about. The middle schooler is now ready to take learning to next level with greater ease pulling it all together.
Finally, during the teenage years, the child can show how things come together. The child has touched, worked with peers, read more about key concepts, and is now ready to become the producer.
It all goes back to the early years.
When we first began sensory play I quickly realized that beans were sprouting from our deck cracks, and rice was under the fridge for months. It wasn’t working.
And we certainly don’t want that for you!
Instead, I am happy to be your guinea pig and guide you along for success.
With that being said, I put together this Introduction to Sensory Play page to help you get set up like a boss.
Inside this post you will learn how to set up your buffer zone, how to prompt your toddler back to the sensory bin when they walk off with oats in hand, and better understand when it is time to put the sensory bin away.
Okay! Now that the training is over, let’s keep the momentum going with our preschoolers.
Scissor Sensory Cut -Sensory fine motor play
Color Mix - A Play on Ketchup and Mustard
Fill the Lines - Sensory play with pom poms
Ice Rescue Game -indoor sensory play
Sand Sensory Play - Multi-age learning
Water Beads - See our favorite brand of water beads here
Color Squirt - The fun way to repurpose shredded bills
Dry Noodle Sensory Play - Simple way to color noodles
Outdoor Sensory Supplies - The supplies you need to own
Water play was one of my very first WHOA. I just got 40 minutes of parenting from the sidelines realizations. I made sure the water level was low, and watched them closely as they poured and scooped.
My boys are allowed ONE refill. They know this from practice. Need more water? Sure. One time. Once it is gone, it is gone.
This quick tips will avoid numerous trips to the sink along with having your child better understand how to assess play so it doesn’t all go to waste.
Now you are ready! Dive into this post because it is packed with ways to engage independent play!
Having a one-year-old can be tricky! I get it. They are too old to sleep all day, yet too young to be emerged in self-guided play for long amounts of time.
We may notice our one-year-old exploring a color matching game, and then quickly becoming distracted with wanting a snack. again
With all of this said, I am a firm believer that babies, toddlers, and preschoolers should explore the environment and different textures. This means that you do not have to buy out Amazon at 12 months. So how can we use our environment to encourage baby play, as we catch our breath?
I searched the internet, so you don’t have to. Here is a list of 40+ Ways to Play that will help entertain your baby!
Let’s give it up for the independent play school ideas that allow us to drink our morning coffee, as we get our preschooler thinking about important concepts they will explore throughout their lifetime.
Since we all understand that playing is learning, let’s plant some seeds and watch our children dive in.
I like to call these play school ideas, Breakfast Invitations.
Simply put, these play invitations are:
quick and easy setup (think under 5 minutes)
engage play to create a powerful morning routine
use supplies you probably already own (items like markers, painter’s tape, etc.)
align with life long learning skills
Eek! I see you looking at this image and shrieking in fear, so I am here to give you a quick tip.
Right now, go fill up your washing machine with water and detergent. Get it ready to toss the clothes in once your preschooler is done exploring. I assure you, it’s as simple as that. - Get messy, strip them down, and toss the clothes in to wash.
Messy play encourages children to explore substances. These are the same substances that will be what they will revisit in grade school.
If you encourage children to touch and feel now, they will make dynamic discovers as they connect the dots later.
You will help spark connections such as:
I know this! I remember when I poured the liquid into the tall, narrow squirt bottle that it overflowed faster than the large pitcher
RELATED: Read what healthykids.org shares about how play helps kids thrive HERE.
As adults, we know when we need a restart, it is helpful to walk outside, breathe in the fresh air and get some sunshine. Being outside stimulates the senses and wakes up the brain. Let’s begin to encourage more outside play for our children as well!
51+ Things to Do for Spring - sensory, crafts, and field trip ideas
Stick Painting - Gather and create
Dash and Sort - Simple backyard running race
How Balance Can Improve Reading - No supplies other than the outdoors!
Practice Prewriting with Movement - Outdoor chalk game
DIY Movement Dice - Make in a flash
RELATED: Read what the NAEYC says about outside play being important for the whole child HERE.
RELATED: How is cognitive development and sensory play helping our babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? Be sure to read this from Michigan State University.