5 Steps for Setting the Kids Up for Pure Play

With just a pinch of planning, parents can promote Pure Play.

Dana Villamagna, Toca Magazine Writer

One winter during a days-long snowstorm, my 5-year-old daughter spent hours intently stringing multicolored yarn across rooms, over and under tables and chairs, and around bedposts. Rainbow webs were everywhere. At the time, I didn’t ask what, how or why. I was just glad she’d found something in our craft supplies that kept her happily occupied while we were all stuck inside, and I had work to do.

Child-created Pure Play often keeps kids’ attention over long spans of time better than anything else. That’s good for them intellectually and emotionally, and often good for busy parents, too. Try these five ways to build a Pure Play-promoting home environment to keep everyone busy and happy.

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  1. Create kid-size key areas. Even when young kids play happily independently, most still like to know a parent or caregiver is nearby, so expand their play spaces beyond their bedroom or playroom. A kid-size table or desk, chair, or kneeling table (wooden crates work) can turn a corner of your kitchen, office, or living room into a perfect spot for kid play.
  2. Gather raw materials. Transform low shelves, cabinets, and drawers or baskets into kid-reachable supply sources. Stock with age-appropriate tools: art and craft supplies (including yarn!), kid-size household tools like feather dusters, open-ended toys including wooden blocks. Add simple items of varying sizes, textures, and colors that are safe for your kid’s age. Include a roll of butcher block paper that kids can draw on, tape things to, trace each other on, use to design roadways for toy cars, you name it.
  3. Keep it simple and fresh. Don’t overstock shelves or drawers, and rotate items every so often. A basket may include two or three library books on your kid’s current favorite interest, a tablet with a few well-chosen play apps, a notebook and some drawing tools.
  4. Think ahead. With your kid, brainstorm a dozen or so fun things they love to do that don’t require you (remember, independent play is good!). Post the list on the fridge (add simple pictograms for pre-readers), so when your kid says, “There’s nothing to do!” they’ll have a place to go for ideas.
  5. Be flexible. Kids immersed in self-directed play will sometimes ask for help or say, “Come and see what I did!” While parents may not be able to take long breaks during busy days, we should enjoy those fleeting moments when kids invite us into their self-created, magical play world. The days of yarn-striped rooms go by all too quickly.

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