What can I say?!? I’m a sucker for Traditional Toys, as I’d mentioned in this article. Although video games and iPads are popular, traditional “play” helps young children build skills that last long after the battery dies. Here are a few of my other favorite ways to get involved in my grandchildren’s play.
Release the Inner Artist!
Paper, colored pencils, markers, crayons, paints!
Notice that I didn’t mention coloring books in that list!!! There will be enough time for them to learn to color “in the lines” when they get to school, so for now, just let them create!
Encourage them to express themselves with paint and writing/coloring materials, to experiment with the differences in these materials, and to just enjoy being creative. To help develop their critical thinking skills, it’s useful to ask children about their art. Instead of telling them that their creation is “beautiful”, describe what you see, talk about the yellow vertical line from the top of their paper to the bottom, about the purple horizontal line across the middle of their paper, about the green diagonal line from one corner of their paper to the other. They may not know these directional words, but they soon will. And last but not least, rather than saying “What is it?”, which can be upsetting because THEY know what it is, if you say “Tell me about your picture”, they will give you a whole story about what they have created. For more questions you might ask the budding artist, check out this article.
Release the Inner Actor!
As this Parents Magazine article points out, engaging our grandchildren in pretend play helps them to develop many skill sets. I have spent hours and hours with my grandchildren as they pretend to cook for me on their grill, or make me tea, or run an ice cream stand where I have to be the customer,
or sit by a pretend campfire and roast marshmallows,
or be the vet as they bring their sick stuffed cat or dog to me,
or they are the sick pet who needs care,
or be a patient with a broken knee (their favorite) who needs their doctoring services;
or lately, helping my smallest granddaughter put her many dollies down for a nap, as she positions them around the floor, gives them a kiss, pats them on the back and covers them up.
Release the Inner “GameBoy”
Instead of encouraging video gaming on my eldest grandson’s GameBoy, we instead sit down and break out the old-fashioned board games. In my preschool classes, the favorites were “Alphabet Bingo” and “Color and Shape Bingo”, and my grandchildren like “Jenga” and “Zingo”. There are also cooperative board games which I like, because rather than encouraging children to compete against each other (there will be enough time for this as they get older), the cooperative games encourage everyone to work together toward a common goal. Some of these games are “Bunny Bedtime Stack Up”, “The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game”, and “Hoot Owl Hoot.”
Release the Inner Sleuth!
Puzzles are not only fun for adults to solve, they’re also a hit with young children. There are basic, three-piece puzzles with knobs on them for little hands to manipulate, to puzzles that have the picture on the base of the puzzle so that children may match the puzzle pieces to the picture on the base, to large-piece floor puzzles, to multi-piece jig-saw puzzles.
All of them give your grandchild the opportunity to explore and manipulate the pieces and give you the opportunity to enjoy completing puzzles with them as you also teach them skills to complete puzzles. Draw their attention to the rounded edges of some pieces and how they might fit the rounded edge of the puzzle board. Point out the straight edge of some pieces and how they fit the straight edge of the board, or examine the colors on pieces of the puzzle and help them to find other pieces with the same colors. Playing with puzzles will help your grandchild develop hand eye coordination as well as fine motor development.
Teacher supply stores, such as Lakeshore or Beckers, will have a wider supply of “creative” materials available, and if you look in their catalog, you will be amazed at the toys and games that are available. There are hundreds of toy selections to choose from, but I have found that the favorites are those that allow my grandchildren to explore, to be creative, to independently decide what they want to do with the materials, to use their imagination, to talk about what they are doing, and to have my undivided attention!
About the Author: Patti Kameen has spent 35 years as a teacher in the public school system as well as in various private preschools. The past 15 years she has worked with infants, toddlers and preschool age children in Head Start. She recently retired so that she could spend more time reading with her three grandchildren.
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