I have seen a real improvement in the twins playing skills recently. Up until now they have mainly just been moving things about and playing with objects without any imagination behind it. Now they are two and a half suddenly they are starting to act things out and use their imagination. This has coincided with an increased concentration and they seem to play for much longer.
A lot of credit for this development must be given to their big sister, who loves imaginative play. She doesn’t really play with toys but likes nothing better than to have a gang of friends all playing a game together. As soon as she gets home she has the twins organised around her playing a game – one is a fairy – the other a shopkeeper. They often have a doll or teddy who takes part too, their favourite baby Annabel is often an integral part of the game and has to be tucked into bed or put on a bike.
I don’t think children need to be taught how to play – it is natural to them. However there are a few ways play can be encouraged to become both more fun and more productive.
1. Praise Good Playing
It’s easy to only notice when children’s play starts to get out of hand and they fight an argue. I know sometimes they have been getting on happily and I am sitting back and letting them get on and it’s only when an argument happens that I step in. I am trying to praise and reward good playing – sharing, being kind, taking turns – all those desirable things – as often as possible in the hope they do them more often.
2. Play Together
I think this one is a balance. With Molly I played with her all the time and as a result she hates to play on her own. With the twins I know I’m guilty of leaving them to play together too often. They do get on really well and have really good independent skills – which is a blessing. However, I think they get so much out of interaction with an adult when they are playing. There are so many ways to develop language when you are playing together and they like nothing more than having you sat next to them.
3. Mix It up
I’ve noticed the twins get really bored with their toys if they are out all the time. I’m trying to rotate toys a bit more so when I bring them out they are fresh and new. Also if I put toys in a different place they seem to be more interested. Recently its been snowing a lot so I took all their small world toys into the kitchen and added a lot of snow and they loved it. Then we had the animals on a white fluffy cushion to look like snow .
4. Add Props
I don’t really like getting the dressing up box out. The girls just throw everything everywhere and just spend an hour getting me to help them put clothes on and off. Instead I think I will just get a few things down every couple of days so they can dress up if they want to. I will get a few wants and wings so they can be fairies – or have a chef apron and hat next to the toy kitchen. That way it’s a bit more manageable for me – and not so messy. I suppose it’s like having a mini home corner.
5. Writing opportunities
Play and writing go really well together. The twins are starting to do some pretend play with writing. Again Molly shows them how. Yesterday they were at her fairy school and she wrote down some spells and had them pretend to read them. I think this one is probably the easiest. All they need is easy access to paper and pencils and they will do the rest.
Of course there are some times when certain games need to be discouraged. The girls current favourite is to play going on holiday. Before Christmas we had a lovely family holiday during which Molly was unfortunately ill. The other day I caught her encouraging Charlotte to pretend to be sick into a bowl – complete with rather too realistic vomiting sounds.
What game do your children like to play? Do you encourage them or think they should be left to their own devices.