Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Five: An invitation to play

Recently there was a sharing session by a homeschooling mum, and I came home from the session feeling rather inspired. One of the key things I learnt was that we could sometimes prepare and layout toys/materials for the kids, and arrange them in a way that invites them to play with them. If left in their usual boxes, kids usually would ignore most of their toys (which they tend to have too many of!). But if these toys were arranged differently, it may just interest the kids into playing with them, and sometimes in a different way. 

So here are five "set-ups" I tried this week after the session, to see if I could get the boys to be more busy with play, and less busy with fighting and getting into trouble: 

:: Animals in a river play scene (get instructions for making the playscene here): I just grabbed random animals and placed them around the felt play scene, and added some "troughs" of food (torn green construction paper and cut up bits of twine), plus two wooden boxes housing some horses. This one held Junior J's attention for a much longer period and he busied himself feeding the animals and letting them sleep. Lil J fiddled with the animals for awhile, then ran off to play with his cars.  

:: Playdough activity tray: This was probably the set-up that got them playing for the longest period of time. (My apologies for the bad photos, it was a dark rainy morning when I took them!) They were used to playing with playdough and cookie cutters, so I threw in some ice-cream sticks to make things a little different.

Lil J was content rolling out balls and proclaiming that they were "poo poo", then he busied himself trying to spear those balls on some of the ice-cream sticks. Junior J tried making different structures, first he made the head of a grasshopper, then he added sticks to change it into the head of a butterfly (with its proboscis). They were really excited and kept running to and fro from the dining table (where they were working), to the kitchen (where I was cooking), to show me their creations. Of course that meant playdough footprints, so I've learnt that these messy things are best restricted to areas near Mama where I can supervise!

:: Spooning/tonging activity tray: This is a common Montessori set-up I think, and I prepared it mainly for Lil J, thinking it was too simple for Junior J. To my surprise, the boys fought over the use of the tray, so I had to prepare another tray with the same materials (only to have them fight over who gets more rainbow pompoms!). Both boys actually sat down to transfer the pompoms using both the spoon and forceps, so I've learnt not to dismiss activities as being too simple for the older kids to do.

:: Threading wooden beads tray: So after the whole "fight over pompoms" thing, I thought I'd better prepare similar materials for both boys. So both had twine (with washi tape at one end to aid in the threading process) and pipe cleaners (and in the same colour so no one fights over who gets the nice colours or whatever!) to choose from. I prepared larger beads for Lil J, only to have Junior J declare he wanted the bigger beads. Thankfully, both busied themselves with the materials, with Lil J attempting to use the twine, only to give up after five minutes to use the pipe-cleaners instead (which was my intent anyway!). 

He spent a long time playing with the beads and pipe-cleaners, while big brother quickly threaded his on the twine and ran off to play. This time, I placed them in the kitchen, since I was worried about Lil J trying to eat the beads.

:: Card-making tray: This was a tray I left out for Junior J to busy himself with while I put Lil J down for his nap. I told him he could make a card for a friend using the materials, and he busied himself with punching out lots of flowers from coloured construction paper, and adding washi tape to the card. 

The use of trays to contain all the relevant materials is a Montessori concept, and I really love how it helps the kids to concentrate on the materials at hand. It also makes setting up and packing up easier since you can prep the trays before hand, whip it out when you need it, and then get the kids to just return everything to the tray when they are done.

I must admit it takes time and effort to prepare these trays before hand, but I think there is value to using these. We'll probably keep adding activities, and I'm thinking of exploring and preparing sensory trays for them too. Will share more when we do... meanwhile, do you prepare such trays/set-ups for your kids too? What are your fav activities to do with them?

Mum in the Making


  1. Cool! I like this post very much! Inspires me to do something similar and more! :) Thanks Jus!

  2. Love this post! It's the same for us. If I leave them to it, they'll usually fight for the same toy and everything else gets forgotten. They'll only go for what's left out in the open and visible. If I lay the toys out for them, I've found that they'll usually play with them more. Love your river scene!!

    Ps is there a card a-comin' our way? :D

  3. Great idea! I'm going to try using the tray method with the kids. Might keep the mess under the control!
    Another thing, I'm not sure why my submission for last week's Friday Five popped up by itself in your links for this week? Anyway, I've deleted it, and have submitted a new link. Have a good weekend!

    1. Hello! Thanks for linking up! Sorry if I wasn't clear, but these days I'm running the linky for 2 weeks each time, so the linky gets recycled one week and you'll see your old link for last week appearing as its the same html code. But I think its great that you're able to link up every week, thanks so much!

    2. Oh! I may have missed that, silly me. Thanks for clarifying!



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