2. Outside the (Toy) Box
A great way to facilitate unstructured play without intervening is to stock their toy box with open-ended play objects. Kids love the thrill of discovery, and they’ll feel ownership and pride over their play experience.
A few suggestions:
-’Blank slate’ toys – these are basic play objects that kids can use as props to facilitate whatever imaginative play they’re into (think blocks, boxes, pots and pans, blank paper)
-Pretend Play toys – think playsets (like our Portable Playsets and Pillow Playsets), and themed sets (like wooden tea sets, plastic food, etc.)
-Multi-purpose toys – often simple objects that serve more than one purpose; nesting bowls can be played with as is or used as imaginary tea cups, dolls can act as audience members, conversation partners or empathetic listeners
1. A Play Space of One’s Own
While outdoor time seems to naturally encourage unstructured play, fun indoor activities are a necessary rainy-day ritual too. To encourage open-ended play at home, create a playspace or area where kids feel confident playing on their own, writing their own rules and, yes, getting a little messy.
A few tips:
-Move toy boxes, books and craft supplies to easily-accessible shelves so kids can direct their own play
-Give them as much open space as possible, facilitating an area for impromptu dance breaks and large-scale finger paint murals
-Consider installing a chalkboard wall or large kraft paper dispenser, so kids never need to hunt for supplies when inspiration strikes
-Create a ‘messy zone’ (be it outside or inside) with a tarp or drop cloths, where making mistakes and making a mess are allowed – and encouraged