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How to Play with Your Kids

posted on February 25 2017

On the one hand this may sound obvious maybe even slightly offensive I mean we all know how to play, right? On the other hand what do you feel when your kid asks you to play? Eeek, no! It is amazing how a few minutes of your time working through a game has such a massive positive effect on your little one.

We were thinking about this because in our store well meaning parents often say, "You are too old for that toy." But their child is already on the Rocking Sheep or putting the ball down the Tac Boum Pomme slide... so obviously they're still enjoying themselves. 

At Little Citizens we think you can never be too old to play with toys. When we cook, we play. When we fiddle with our necklace or the chocolate wrapper, when we poke fun at our friends, or invent a scenario to make a point at work... these are all forms of play.

In fact the current buzz word in childhood development is Symbolic Play. Child psychologists are increasingly recognising the importance of pretend play. Substituting in objects and items for ideas. Kids learn so much through make believe, they practice ideas they hear and feelings they felt throughout the day. Put them into different situations and decide how they'll accept these and what questions they have left. AND like adults they let off steam AND come up with solutions.

Sail Boats by Grimms wooden boats that float for sale at Little Citizens Boutique

These Wooden Sailboats with Peg People makes great toys for pretend, they roll on ground and float on water and encourage little ones to build entire worlds of their own.

Even adults use objects, actions or ideas to represent other objects, actions, or ideas as play. Satire, parody and irony are all more evolved forms of play. Sharing meaning in more ways than just through language.

When children create symbolism or a fictional land, it allows the child to retell their life experience, changing settings and words. This is some of what Isabel CerdánPsychoanalyst and teacher writes about in the new Young Minds Matter at HuffPost. A great series of blogs guest edited by Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge about mental and emotional health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and understood.

Cérdan says, "Often children who are not accustomed to this type of game can show some resistance." If your parent is telling you that you have outgrown play then you may not remember how to let your imagination run wild. If not enough of our activities in our day are open-ended, we might be out of practice.

"That’s why it’s important for adults to create and maintain an environment that encourages symbolic play. At first, they may need to be more present, accompany them, help them, give them a few objects or toys, until they learn to “be alone in the presence of others”. Pick up some toys to encourage the world of make believe here.

Open ended toys that encourage free play or Symbolic Play

Our DOLLHOUSE SECTION and MAKE BELIEVE section offer some wonderful open ended toys that encourage Symbolic Play and imaginary worlds.

But how do we play with our kids?

The wonderful Dr. Laura Markham wrote a super list of suggestions on her blog Aha Parenting on how to get excited about play. This is a MUST read. We especially can't wait to pretend to be a monster and hand your child a remote so that they have control of your movements. 

And I love the suggestion that when they are screaming go against your intuition and let them scream all they want, "Ok, there's been so much complaining (or loud screeching)! This is your last chance to complain (screech) for the rest of the day. I'm setting the timer and putting on my earphones. I want you to complain (screech) as loud as you can for the next three minutes. You only have three minutes so make the most of them. After that, we're all back to normal inside voices. 1, 2, 3, GO!" It really works!

And what about playing out scenarios? If your child has come home from school and is bothered but doesn't want to talk about, pretend is a great way to ease into what's bothering them. You can try using figures or dolls and say, "Let's pretend we're in the sandbox and I want your truck but you don't want to share" or "Let's pretend you're the teacher and I'm the student" or "Let's pretend you're the doctor and I'm sick."

Cubic Dollhouse by Djeco for sale at Little Citizens Boutique

The Cubic Dollhouse by Djeco is certainly not just for girls and not just for kids either. Give your child permission to go into their own little world and play.

Recently an nine year old boy was in the store and what he was attracted to the most was this dollhouse. His mom said he spends the day making up stories and developing characters and he loves modern buildings and houses. We were so excited to see this. Because we're real proponent of using our imagination for as long as we live. And we all sometimes need a little encouragement.


For a multitude of ideas on toys that encourage pretending and imagination have a look at our: DOLLHOUSE and MAKE BELIEVE toy sections.

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