Jun 28, 2013

Intentional Play for Preschoolers

As I've mentioned previously, I hold to the philosophy that kids learn tons through play. And when I say that, I realize I run the risk of being misunderstood.  For many parents, play is looked upon as anything that entertains or diverts a child's attention away from nagging Mama or from being "bored" (the dreaded "B" word!). 
We (myself included) often put little thought into the types of play we allow our children to engage in, not realizing that many things that entertain and divert are not actually things that engage a child's mind in learning or help a child make to make proper {gospel-centered} connections with their world. I'm slowly learning that it's highly important that we consider the ways in which we lead our children into play.
Whether it's setting boundaries with media, sorting through toys often (keeping only that ones that encourage imagination) or taking snippets of time during our busy days to play with our kids (or at least get them started in an activity), we should play an active role in what's happening in our children's minds.

I like to call this intentional play.

There are ways to encourage intentional play at every age and stage, but this post will be geared toward preschoolers.

My preschooler has always been into social play. I picked up on that early on. Knowing that, I've tried to find ways to engage him in pretend play that teaches proper social skills, manners, etc. One of our favorite things to play is restaurant. Not only does it encourage proper social skills, but it also encourages the use math skills (how many? how much does it cost?) and discussions about healthy eating (something my preschooler struggles with). I've incorporated these adorable printable menus, as well as our Pretend & Play Cash Register.
We use many of these same supplies to play grocery store as well.

As a stay at home mom, I have the privilege of toting my kids with me wherever I go. We run lots of errands together, which bring up lots of questions from my preschooler about how the world operates. When he takes an interest in the library, we play library. When he takes an interest in the bank, we play bank. 
And when he takes an interest in the post office, we play post office.
A few weeks ago, we made our own mailboxes out of old cardboard boxes.

To be a little more intentional in our play, I also created a little game involving colors and shapes.

Let me insert here that the great thing about intentional play is that if you simply take a few minutes to get a child started on an activity (giving them some of your quality time), they will likely get so engrossed in the activity that they may not even notice that you've slipped away to load the dishwasher or switch the laundry. 

A few more ideas I've used are...
Playing bean bag toss while learning about money

 Encouraging thinking and fine motor development with Lego patterns

Proud of his robot.

Using our time in the kitchen to teach measurements and reinforce fine motor skills

Using simple board games to talk about colors, numbers, skip counting, shapes, and playing fair! 
 Our favorite board games during this stage have been Hi Ho Cherry-O, Spot It! (we have Numbers & Shapes and Animals versions), Yahtzee (we only play the top half of the card, which teaches skip counting), and Colors and Shapes Bingo (swiped this from a thrift store for cheap!).

(Visit the Tot School Gathering Place for more ideas on how to keep your little ones engaged.)

I'd be interested to hear what your preschoolers favorite games are at this stage.
Please leave me some ideas in the comments!

Happy {Intentional} Playing, 


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