Friday, March 21, 2014

Meaningful Play

I always said when I had children that they wouldn't be TV watchers. When I was younger, TV wasn't an option most days. We went outside to play - all of the time. We rode our bikes, roller skated, jump roped, went to the park with our cousins, made mud pies in our front yard. And, when it rained, our back yard would fill up with water (Mississippi is very flat and my parents had the largest yard in the neighborhood since our house was one of the first built). This large area of yard filled with water made a great playground. When we were done slipping and sliding and rolling in the water, my mom would pull out the waterhose and hose us down. {Honestly, if I remember correctly, it was me who made neat little mud pies while my sister and brother rolled in the water and grass and mud.}

My brother would also disappear for a whole day in the creek near our house. He came home only to change clothes uniforms to match what he was pretending to be - fireman, cowboy, military. This was the worst for my mom!

Those were the days!! Reminiscing about the days of my childhood sparked something in me - a reason to foster meaningful play with my son. All of those days outside were filled with creativity and imagination and fun!! Nowadays, we have to be careful with our children outdoors which is very sad, but we still need to foster that creativity and imagination that comes from being outdoors.

Today, TV and electronics are the staple in most homes and sadly in most children's activities daily. I admit I have followed suit with cartoons in the morning and movies on rainy or sick days or even days when I just would have rather stayed in bed.

But, recently, a friend of mine has begun to do "school" with her son at home. I became excited about doing the same for our son, Declan. Granted, Declan is only 16 months old, but he is a SPONGE!! He learns so quickly and is starting to say actual words we can understand. {Everything this week has been APPLE - even his little friend who sent a photo birthday invitation!}

I began to feel I needed to harvest this learning while I can. Why wait? Fostering that same creativity I grew up with is of utmost importance to me right now.

You may ask, how can you have "school" with a 16 month old who isn't talking yet? Well, you focus on what they can do and the skills they need to improve for their age.

According to, these are the milestones of a toddler 1-3 years of age:

According to, a child has certain milestones and adults can foster these: 
{Ages 13 to 24 months} **See the website for other ages

  • Confident on their feet, climbing, running, kicking a ball
  • Language skills are growing and he/she understands more than he/she can express
  • Follows two step directions
  • Beginning to identify colors and shapes
  • Uses crayons, builds with blocks, throws a ball, fills/empties containers
  • Wants independence - dress him/herself, uses a spoon/fork, washes his/her hands
  • Children may show defiance at this stage since they want that independence 

What can WE do to FOSTER these MILESTONES: 

  • Read to your child and discuss/talk about the books (this is an early thing we began when Declan was an infant even)
  • Have conversations with your child and answer their questions 
  • Begin teaching letters and numbers
  • Discuss feelings and help them put their feelings into words
  • Rephrase sentences if they are incorrect, but don't get on to them
  • Practice having child ask for items instead of pointing 
  • Learn parts of the body
  • Categorize items while playing/sort items by color/shape
  • Encourage pretend play 
  • Explore outside at the park, the zoo, etc.
  • Reinforce good behavior and set clear limits {Safety is key at this age such as running into the street}
  • Allow toddlers to have a few options and allow him to make choices 

As you can see from this list, we as parents have a huge role to play. Now, that being said, I am not one of those moms who says her child is going to be the brainiac of the neighborhood. The meaningful play we take part in is meant to make learning fun. It is really play that our children actually learn from. It really isn't "school" in the traditional sense of the word. I still want our child to be a boy. Run, play, turn flips, get muddy, learn to fish and hunt, but I also want to foster learning so he will do well in the future. 

Please read my next blog post on meaningful toys and activities that Declan and I have been doing each day. I will list a few toys and activities as well as websites that can take the guess work out of "planning" for these activities. 

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