One simple trick is encouraging my kids to keep playing for longer, boosting creativity and helping siblings get along together better, with fewer squabbles over toys.
How to keep kids playing for longer
I’ve discovered a super simple trick that is helping my kids to keep playing longer. It’s a piece of kit we’ve been using for a while and I’ve noticed that when we use it:
:: my children play for longer – which keeps them engaged, happy, and focused on creative play
:: it stops sibling squabbles – well not completely (that would really be too good to be true!) but it definitely promotes harmony in our house
:: it makes tidy up time so much easier! Less tidying up needed, no arguing about who’s doing what
:: it encourages creativity – as it lets play flow easily from one day to the next, and means one play idea can last over days and weeks, so I really notice the children developing their games, storytelling and imaginative play over longer stretches of time
Can you guess what it is that’s making the difference? I bet you already have one in your home that you could put to use today!
We’re using a Play Tray. That’s all it is: one simple piece of kit borrowed from the kitchen cupboard has transformed our play. We take the tray, fill it with some favourite characters and a good selection of loose parts, and we’re ready to play.
And here’s why it makes all the difference for us:
:: each child has their own play space. It’s their defined zone, where they are in charge and lead the play. There’s still plenty of collaborative play happening, as the trays as easily gathered together when the children want to play together
:: it’s a contained space, which gives enough room to play, but contains the toys in one area – which makes tidy up so much easier. It also means we can enjoy messy play but still keep a lot of control over just how far the mess spreads
:: using the tray makes everything portable. The play can easily move from one part of the house to another. We can quickly re-locate to the garden if the sun comes out. When I need the kitchen table for dinner, the action can instantly move to the floor, without me having to stop the flow of the creative play, and without me having to try to tidy the table and cook at the same time. When toddler cousins come to play, the play tray can move a carefully-set-up scene up onto the table, away from pesky little hands that knock everything over, and keeping small toys out of reach of the younger child
:: it keeps play going for days! There’s no need to pack everything away at the end of the day, we simply pop the tray, with the play scene still set up, on a shelf. Then it’s all ready for more playing the next day. I’m seeing my girls wake up in the morning with ideas buzzing about how the play action is going to unfold today, and I’m seeing deeper, complex storylines flow along over days and weeks
The tray we’re using is a circular, wooden one. It’s about 40cm in diameter, which seems to be a nice size to give a generous play space, and keeps it easy for the children to transport all by themselves. It has a rim around the edge which is just enough for containing messy play items, and to stop toys spilling off when the play tray is on the move.
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You can find similar trays on Amazon here and here.
Do you use a play tray with your children? How does it work out for you?
The ultimate guide to sensory play!
If your child loves sensory play, you need a copy of this! Super Sensory Invitations to Play is a delightful resource that encourages your children to explore the five senses through the year, using a wide variety of sensory materials. It includes 52 invitations to play, linked to the festivals and seasons of the year, and including water, ice, dough, rice, paints, sand, sensory tubs, and more.
They are easy, simple, and fun ideas that you can use right now to give a multi-sensory boost to your play and learning. It comes with a printable recipe book featuring all our favourite recipes for play. Get yours here!