Books can be a fantastic source of worlds, characters and ideas that our children can use during playtime. Here’s an activity you can try at home to turn your favourite bedtime story into hours of fun:
1. Read your book!
Find a comfy, cosy space to settle down with your little one, and pick out a book. Try and go for something with a fantastical, exciting or far-off setting, as this will provide more inspiration for play than ‘at-home’ stories. Some that we love are:
:) There’s a Tiger in the Garden by Lizzy Stewart
:) Where the Wild things Are by Maurice Sendak
:) Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
:) The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
:) The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
2. Set up your play space.
The play space you provide your little one with has the power to both inspire them and make them feel safe enough to explore with freedom.
Try choosing a space they are comfortable in. For example, very small children may want to set up a den or play-tent, as this can help them to feel secure.
3. Choose your props.
With your child, hunt round the house for toys, outfits and other items you can use in your play. If you read Julián is a Mermaid, for example, you might pick out some jewellery and fabric to create your own mermaid costumes. If you chose Where the Wild Things Are, you could pick out some toys to be your ‘Wild Things’ and some furniture to be your ship, or trees.
4. Pick your characters.
Deciding to play as the main characters in your storybook may seem like the obvious and most simple option. However, this may prompt your little one to simply act out the events of the book. By choosing characters who don’t directly appear, your child is left with greater freedom to create their own stories. This, in turn, allows them to express their own thoughts and feelings, and explore subjects they wish to know more about.
So, say you’ve been reading The Gruffalo. Maybe you and your little one could become two explorers on an expedition to find and photograph the Gruffalo. If you read The Lorax, you might be two Barb-a-loots, turfed out of your homes and forced to hunt for a new one.
5. Get into character and start playing!
First off, if you’re playing with your little one, it’s important to let them know that you are ‘in character’. For example, you could have a piece of costume, such as a hat, that you wear when playing your role. This way, it stays clear to your child not only that you are playing, but that you can stop if they want you to!
Secondly, allow your little one to lead the way. Your child is an expert in the field of playtime - it’s an incredibly important activity to them. Try to respect this, and give them the freedom to take charge.
6. Have fun!
Whether you’re hunting through the jungle or sailing the high seas, anything can happen when playing with your little one. Enjoy the adventure!
I hope these tips help to provide you and your little one with hours of joy and excitement.