Tag Archives: Toddler Play

Why kids need freedom for uninterrupted play

 *The beautiful playsilks you see in this post were gifted to me by the lovely Sarah’s Silks

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for childrenplay is serious learning.” – Fred Rogers

Once upon a time, I had no understanding nor appreciation for the message in this quote from Fred Rogers. I remember, as a new mum, thinking that it was my job to teach my children as much as I could to best prepare them for the academics they would require in formal schooling.

I frequently interrupted my children’s play with little nuggets of knowledge and wisdom to help advance their thinking. I gave them toys which recited letters and numbers so that when I wasn’t there to teach them, the toys could do it for me.

Little did I know that my interference in their play was, in actual fact, undermining the learning they were naturally pursuing. By trying to teach them these things through explicit instruction and complex toys, I was not only taking away their opportunity to learn it richly for themselves through their own discoveries, I was robbing them of the type of play time which would lay the foundations for their formal academic learning later in life.

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Respectful Parenting: Encouraging Cooperation From Birth

Today was the 5th day of RIE Foundations and the final day of the first week of this course. It has been an intensive week of learning, clarifying, understanding and internalising how to be a respectful parent.

Over this week I have bonded with a group of 7 other ladies and our wonderful facilitators, Deborah Carlisle Solomon and Michelle who all have the common goal of seeing children treated with respect. It’s been quite a surreal experience with a healthy mix of tears, laughter and debate which has had my head in a whirl. I am grateful for the next two days of quiet, where I can poke my head back out into the real world and contemplate all that has been thrown my way.Respectful parenting, Encouraging cooperation from birth Continue reading

25 Battery-Free Gifts for the Imaginative Child

Do you have a hard time selecting the perfect gift for your children? Over time, I have become much more choosey with the toys I buy for my children. I look for quality and durability wherever possible and I also consider how active or passive a toy is. Magda Gerber used to teach that an active toy makes for a passive child (the toy does the work for the child at the push of a button) and a passive toy (battery-free toy) encourages the child to create the play for themselves.

25 Battery Free Gifts for the Imaginative Child Continue reading

Encouraging Independent Play in Toddlers

Fostering independent play in young children takes time and patience.  Some children are naturally more content with their own company but for others, playing independently can be a struggle, particularly if they have been  entertained frequently as infants or had play done for them in the early stage of their life.

Encouraging Independent Play in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Our eldest daughter is like this and it has taken significant and conscious effort on our part to foster independent play skills in her. For the past three years we have been following the advice of Magda Gerber’s respectful parenting approach.  We are now starting to see more independence in her play and contentedness to be on her own as a result.

Here are eight tips that have most helped us in encouraging our toddlers to play independently. Continue reading

Sure, it Hurts, but I Mustn’t Project My Fears onto My Kids

This is oh so hard. We hold onto so much baggage from our past and if we had a wish it would be that our children would not have to feel the same hurts we have felt. Many of us have a strong Mama Bear instinct that would have us move mountains for our kids. But we cannot always protect them from the pain of reality and sometimes, it actually hurts our wounded souls more than it hurts them.

There are times when our children would actually be better off without us projecting our fears onto them. Sometimes, what we perceive as an injustice is nothing more than part of a child’s play, especially when they are young,

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Acting With The Eyes of Compassion – A Toddler CAN Do This!

To act with the eyes of compassion is an expression I came across in my past work at a Catholic school. Something about these words struck a chord with me and I think about them often as I go about my daily life. Thinking of the true meaning behind ‘eyes of compassion’ helps me to stay calm when I feel hard done by or when I hear something unkind being said. To me this expression means act with true empathy even when you are not sure what it is that is causing the grief or angst against you in the other person. We can never truly know what it is like for another person as they live out their lives, even our own children and therefore it is important that we continue to treat them with respect and act gently even when they are not able to.

It is something I have been able to draw strength from during many of my toddler’s emotional outbursts and I also try to keep these words in mind when I hear criticism of my parenting as I open up the window into my personal life through this blog. I have spoken often of my intentions to ‘teach’ my children through modelling appropriate behaviours in the hopes that my future adult children will adopt these same traits and be confident to use them for their own good in the world. At times, this vision has seemed so far away so I was quite surprised when this week I was delivered a little gift; a glimpse into the future of my children.

The girls and I were painting with watercolours in the rumpus room. Lucy, two and three-quarters years, asks to paint with these everyday, several times a day. Penny also enjoys joining in and making her own creations. I always sit with the girls at their table and help them to keep the paint on the paper, away from the other furniture and each other. I love to listen to Lucy as she proudly describes in detail the components of her paintings and I have enjoyed watching the girls’ artworks evolve in complexity and confidence over time. I was thrilled recently when Lucy invited me to join her in some painting, fetching me a paint brush and some paper and encouraging me to draw whatever I would like to.

Some of you may remember that there was a time when Lucy would not let me draw, paint or colour in with her. I would barely begin my art piece when she would move in aggressively and tear, scrunch or hit away my paper. It seemed at the time that she would see her scribbles and compare them to the neatness and structure of my work and become somewhat jealous or frustrated. When I took a step back and gave her her own space to create without any pressure or preconceived ideas, she was much more content. I think as she has grown in confidence in her own skin, she is now really happy to watch me join in with her and at the same time retains immense pride in all her art work.

But that was not my gift. As happy as it makes me being able to paint alongside my children once again, the gift I received went deeper than that. Lucy and I were painting together. Penny had abandoned her work and was happily playing in the hammock swing nearby. Lucy looked over at my painting and asked me what it was. I had really just been doodling so I said I have made some shapes and lines. I framed my patterns with a rectangle and Lucy said to me “Have you drawn Play School (her term for daycare)?” I replied “Does it look like Play School to you?” She said yes so I added a roof and a chimney which she asked to help me colour in. Once finished she asked me to put some stairs inside, which I did. She then surprised me by grabbing the middle of the painting and scrunching it into her hand, tearing the wet paper.

I was genuinely upset as I had been enjoying this picture we were creating together and was making plans to hang it up on her art board as a collaborative piece. I decided to let Lucy know how I felt so I said “I was enjoying painting with you. I feel sad that the painting is ripped. I am going to let you paint here now whilst I hang the washing out.” I left the table and went to get the washing out of the machine (in the same room as the paint table). Lucy watched me solemnly as I left the table and then ran off to another room. I immediately felt guilty for making her feel bad about ripping the painting. After all, it wasn’t her fault. She is still very young and learning how to be careful. I imagined that she was running to get her security bunny which is her go-to when she is feeling low.

After a few moments, however, Lucy came running back into the rumpus room. She bounded quickly over the bridge (which is the entrance to the room) and looked lovingly at me as she climbed back onto the chair in front of the painting. It was then, in that moment that I saw my gift – it was in her eyes! Those same eyes of compassion that I have been trying so hard to see Lucy with everyday over the past few years were staring back at me. Lucy had gone to collect the sticky tape from the office desk to mend my painting. She sat at the painting for a very long time, working through some intense frustrations (without screaming for my help) as she tried so hard to get the sticky tape out of the dispenser. She pulled long pieces of tape out but couldn’t quite get them to break off. Remembering her cause, she came to me quietly, undemanding and said “I can’t get the tape into little pieces.” I showed her how she could do it and she returned to the table and worked hard until she was happy that the painting was fixed.

When she was finished she didn’t come to me for approval, instead she came to me and said “You’re painting is all better, Mummy! Don’t be sad.” and hugged my leg. It had been a hard day up to that point and as I crouched down to her and took her into my arms I let the tears flow as I thanked her for making me feel better.

Now, I would never judge anyone who told me that toddlers were self-centered and demanding. In fact, on many days I would whole-heartedly agree. But not on this day. A small act of kindness has shown me just how capable my children are at acting with the eyes of compassion and this time it was me that was the recipient!

Eyes of Compassion ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

You might also enjoy reading:

Could NOT Forcing Your Toddler to Share Help With Sharing Conflicts – Part Two ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

You’ll Be Sorry – Children And Apologies ~ Janet Lansbury-Elevating Childcare


Using ‘Provocations’ to Extend an Interest

A while back I posted a ‘play series’ which featured snippets of my girls playing with a variety of invitations as well as some naturally occurring play moments. I also featured a post explaining how I sometimes struggle to encourage my eldest daughter, Lucy, (2.5 years) to play independently and contentedly and how I hoped to use her own genuine interests to encourage more depth in her play.

I have since come to realise that I was perhaps setting up too many of these invitations / provocations and my children were coming to rely on having something different and interesting to explore on a daily basis. So I have recently got back to basics. I have not presented my children with a single provocation for nearly two months and instead have allowed them to engage and create with the lovely toys and objects we have around the house. It has been fascinating to watch them progress through these months. Initially, it was quite difficult for all of us. There was a lot of leg hugging and Lucy was far from independent in her play. It was like she had forgotten how to be happy just being. No stimulation or explorations to discover, it was all up to her how she occupied herself in her free time (which is most of the time). Gradually she has become more imaginative in her play and furthermore she seeks to include her younger sister more readily in her made up games which regularly include ‘going shopping for groceries’, playing shops (with imaginary customers) and making beds for all her little pot people and tucking them in to sleep. They still paint and craft but it has to be their idea not something I have provided for them to run with.

Now, whilst it was a successful break from offering engaging activities, I do still see value in using these invitations when I see an opportunity to extend an interest. As Lucy gets older I am seeing more and more inquiry coming into her vocabulary. Why do we have to sift the flour before we add it to the mixture? When will the leaves fall off the trees again? What do the kangaroos eat in the desert? etc. I love that she inquires about these things as it gives me a little insight into her mind. What she’s thinking about, where she’s at cognitively etc. It is from these inquisitions that I intend to set up opportunities for her to delve deeper and discover a little more about the concept. I am hoping it will allow her to develop the skills of research and experimentation to make her own conclusions rather than relying on me for the answers (some of which I don’t actually know)!

So recently we began participating in our local shopping centre promotion whereby they are giving away Australian Animal Collector Cards. We purchased the Collector’s Album for a token amount and have been busily adding the cards to it. It has been a fantastic project. Lucy has been exposed to numbers up to 100 as each card has a unique number and its own designated pocket identifiable by the number. Initially I was reading out the number and then turning to the correct pocket for Lucy to feed it in. Now, Lucy has begun matching the numbers herself once I have turned to the correct page. She gets rather upset if I try to show her where it goes. She’s even started to work out that all the cards that go together on the same page have the same coloured border around them and is having a go at finding the right page now as well.

The pages are categorised by habitats. There are rainforest animals, backyard animals, wetlands animals, reef animals, desert animals and quite a few others. Lucy was particularly interested in the desert animals. There was a Red Kangaroo card in this section and she has recently been to an animal sanctuary and fed kangaroos as well as many other beautiful Australian animals. She asked what a desert was and we flicked between pictures of a rainforest habitat and a desert one. She noticed the difference in colours between the vibrant green of the forest and the rusty red of the desert. She wondered what the kangaroos ate because there is very little vegetation. This was a really nice moment and overall I have been really impressed with the longevity of her interest in continuing to add cards to her folder every time I come home from a grocery shop.

I decided to extend her interest a little further and attempt to set up a mini habitat sensory pit representing a desert. I buried some of the desert animal cards in the pit for the girls to find and then left it to them.


I used a variety of pulses (dried mixed beans, dried peas, pearl barley and rice) most of which had been sitting in the pantry for years begging to be used. I wish I knew how!! Funnily enough, Lucy has enjoyed crunching on the dried kidney beans occasionally as she plays which is fine by me.


The girls loved pulling the cards out and finding out what animals were hiding out in their desert. After the pit had been up for a few days Lucy even started putting them back ‘underground’ when the sun was shining on the pit so they didn’t get burnt!


Of course it didn’t take long for the sensory nature of the pit to become the focus for the play as spoons, cups and even a little bit of water was added to the activity.


It has ended up being a lovely (on going) inquiry with much discovery about the desert habitat. When it loses its appeal, I will attempt to create a new habitat from the folder. I can’t wait to see how the girls react to it.

Has anyone else been collecting these cards? How have your children engaged with them?

You might also be interested in reading

Our Weekly Play: Week One

Our Weekly Play: Week Two

Setting up a Reggio-inspired Activity From Kate @ An Everyday Story

Our Weekly Play: Week 7

Very little work for me this week (yippee!!) so more time for playing. The weather turned a little chilly here but the sun still shone so we still made our way outside as often as possible. For a long time now I have struggled with letting my girls play in the mud and get dirty. It’s not that I don’t like this type of play, quite the opposite in fact. I love watching the girls go crazy in dirt but it’s the washing and the redressing that I dislike. Dressing the girls (especially my 2.5 yo) can be quite an arduous, long winded process and once it is done I certainly don’t wish to have to keep having that battle throughout the day. So, whilst,  I would normally dress them in very old, already stained clothing etc for playing outside, what about when they have to go out; to a play date or the shops etc? I don’t really feel happy taking them out covered in dirt and mud. So if I know we are going out, the girls are dressed in clothes that are appropriate and it’s then that I loathe to open that backdoor and let them loose into the dirt pit before we go. But now, thanks to a brilliant invention, I no longer need to worry about this!!


These little treasures arrived here in the post this week and they have completely solved my dirt issues once and for all – Muddlarks. If you haven’t heard of them, I would strongly encourage you to check them out. They are amazing! Simply pull them on the kids as they head outside (straight over whatever they are wearing) and take comfort in the fact that they not only repel water but also dirt!! I literally hosed the kids off when they were ready to come in and then hung them up at the back door. No washing required. In fact, they advise you to wash infrequently to prolong the life of the garment. I wish I had these a year ago. I have no doubt these will be well and truly the most frequently donned apparel my children have. A few of the pictures this week feature our Muddlarks in action. I hope you enjoy 🙂

7 hard v soft


7 soft and hard

Lucy explored the properties of materials. Once she had delved through the different components of this invitation, I asked her which materials she found hard and which were soft. At first, she was a little unsure about the concept of these two properties.  She thought the tree blocks were hard but when she picked up the wool she told me it was hard too. I asked her if she thought it was as hard as the blocks to which she replied ‘No mummy, the wool doesn’t make any sound, see!’ *bangs a bunch on the table* She then proceeded to pick up each object and bang it on the table to see what type of sound it made (by this stage she had removed most of the foil from around the blocks and so included it in her investigations). She concluded that the louder the sound, the harder the object. It was lovely to see her thought cogs turning from one simple prompt.

PS: she got much delight in removing the foil from the blocks to discover what was inside. I think she thought it was her birthday with so many presents to open 🙂

7 hammer invitation

With a somewhat destructive nature, I thought this invitation would be perfect for Lucy and I was right. After initially exploring the golf tees, she set right into hammering each and every tee into the floral foam before removing most of them and repeating. It was a great fine motor skill activity.

7 invite to scatter

7 pennys loose parts

Lucy absolutely loves loose parts! To her, these are her ticket to make mess, to run her hands through them slowly at first, gradually picking up pace and to tip and scatter them into far reaching corners of the room. In the past, we have butted heads over her innate approach she has to playing with these little bits and pieces and I have since shied away from using them in her everyday play. Whilst I had thought it would be a lovely opportunity for her to create in a serene way, she always had other ideas for them that never had anything to do with creating (unless you count creating a mess!). But in the recent months I have begun to embrace this quality in her and started to trust that the learning experiences she is gaining from her approach to play in this way is significant to her, for her age and stage. So, this week I set up this invitation to scatter using many different loose parts. I was surprised by the care that Lucy displayed when she initially approached the activity. Furthermore, although she did tip the contents out after about 5 minutes, they all went pretty much into the mirrored tray where she then studied them, stirred them and ran her hands through them for an extended period of time. She eventually added saucepans and pots to create some ‘dinners’ and over the days I left it out for her and Penny to come back to, she has been remarkably restrained and much more purposeful in her play with them. They are still accessible in the play room for both girls and are being regularly revisited throughout the day.

7 Penny playdough

In her new Muddlarks (had to try them on when they first arrived), Penny enjoyed playing with playdough this week. She especially loved poking things into the dough once it was rolled flat. On a side note, I made some beautiful play dough today using the lovely red dirt from the backyard. I will include it in next week’s post 🙂

7 soapy sensory

Muddlarks in action. This lovely sensory play was well received by both girls. These frothy bubbles were easily made by mixing 4 tbs of dish detergent with 1/2 a cup of water and food dye and then blending for a few minutes with a hand blender until soft peaks formed. Add a few pots and pans, cups and spoons and you have a lovely medium to explore and cook up a storm. After most of the bubbles had been emptied into their pots, the girls added bark and dirt to the container and created a big mud pie. They were muddy top to toe but loved being hosed off before they came inside.


So, I leave you all with this photo of little Penny playing in the dirt pit. Now that the girls are dressed for it, I am going to add a little water to it next week and let them loose. Stay tuned… I look forward to hearing about your week of play. Enjoy your weekend 🙂