play

  • Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.  

    You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. 

    Pikler triangles are a great early childhood toy that helps your child develop gross motor skills while increasing their self-confidence and learn some problem-solving skills. 

    What is a Pikler Triangle?

    A Pikler triangle is a climbing triangle created by Dr. Emmi Pikler, a Hungarian pediatrician, and it consists of two sides with rungs and a plank that can work as a slide or another climbing structure.  

    They encourage gross motor skills and independent play while nurturing self-confidence and problem-solving skills. 

    Dr. Pikler’s philosophy on raising children centered on independent play and explorations from an early age, parents’ attentiveness while spending time with their child, and treating infants and children as unique individuals. 

    Are Pikler Triangles safe?

    Many parents wonder when choosing a Pikler triangle if they are safe. The short answer is yes they are safe.  

    Babies and toddlers are naturally going to climb as they grow. By giving them a Pikler triangle you were giving them a safe environment for them to climb instead of climbing on more dangerous things like toy boxes or bookcases.  

    To make your Pikler triangle safer you can put a thin mat underneath it or place it on a soft carpeted surface.  

    The biggest thing that makes your Pikler triangle safe is using it in a shared area like the living room. Somewhere you both are. 

    Don’t put your Pikler triangle in a space where your child is left alone. For instance, don’t put it in a playroom or bedroom where your child plays alone. Especially early on. 

    A better place to put your Pikler triangle to start is in the living room or other shared space while your child is learning how to navigate it. 

    Is a Pikler Triangle Montessori?

    A Pikler triangle can be right at home inside of a Montessori playroom or Montessori classroom.  In fact, some people call Pikler triangles Montessori climbing ladders. 

    But Pikler Triangles are based on Pikler’s philosophy on child development so they are not explicitly from Montessori methods. However, they do support a lot of the core elements of the Montessori method, like child-directed discovery and encouraging independence.  

    Dr. Pikler and Dr. Montessori have complimentary ideas on early childhood learning and development. Both methods view the child as a whole person who should be respected and allowed to explore their worlds and learn in a self-directed way. 

      What age range is a Pikler triangle good for?

    The Pikler triangle can be used for children 6 months through 5 or 6 years old. You can introduce the Pikler triangle as your child starts pulling up. They can start with the lowest rung and explore it as they grow.  

    Eventually, they will naturally start climbing up rungs and using the ramp to climb or slide down.  

    Older children can put the plank between two Pikler triangles and use it to help them learn to balance. 

    The Pikler Triangle grows with your child offering them new ways of playing with it at each stage of their development. 

    How to use and set up a Pikler triangle

    Most Pikler triangles you purchase will need to be put together.  

    Setting them up is as simple as putting the rungs in between the two A-frame structures and tightening some bolts.  

    If you’ve ever put together any kind of furniture that has come flat packed, like from IKEA, you’ll put this together no problem.  

    For a very young baby, you may choose to wait to introduce the ramp and only set it up with the triangle portion.  

    If your child is older you may set up the triangle with the ramp so that they can use it as a slide or another climbing area.  

    You can even set the ramp between two climbing structures and make it like a balance beam for your child to explore. 

    Once you have the Pikler triangle set up it’s time to introduce it to your child. 

    It’s important to know that according to Dr. Pikler’s philosophy, a child should never be put in a position that they cannot get to themselves.  So don’t put your child onto the triangle instead introduce it to them by allowing them to experiment with it.

    If your child is reluctant to experiment with a Pikler triangle, you could show them how to use it by using one of their favorite toys like a stuffed animal or a baby doll.  

    For a younger baby show the stuffed animal pulling up on the Pikler triangle and for older kids show how they can climb over it.  

    Benefits of the Pikler Triangle

    The Pikler triangle has many benefits for your child’s development including gross motor skills, self-confidence, independence, and even helping them to reach milestones.  

    Gross Motor Skills

    Gross motor skills are large motion skills that help your child to sit, walk, run, and climb.  

    Grip, balance, climbing, and standing are all included in the gross motor skills that the Pikler triangle will help your child develop.  

    As your child experiments with her Pikler triangle and starts climbing and pulling up on it, they will start developing grip, balance, and strengthen those large movement muscles in their arms, legs, and core.  

    As your child develops more gross motor skills, it will help them to reach developmental milestones.

    Self-confidence

    Pikler triangles are not only good for gross motor skills but they’re also good for developing self-confidence in your child.  

    Your child learns to trust their instincts while playing on the triangle.  They learn to make decisions on what their capabilities are, like how far they can climb up.  It’s a safe place for them to start testing their skills.  When they’re pulling up, each rung encourages them to try the next.  

    Knowing that your child can trust their instincts and improve their skills gives 

    them an intrinsic way to build their self-confidence.  

    Independent Play

    Independent play is a cornerstone of many early education and child development philosophies but it doesn’t always come easy to us as parents or to our children. 

    Providing your child with open-ended toys like the Pikler triangle can foster independent play. 

    Independent play benefits both your child and you by giving your child a break from parental and peer expectations and giving you a break from entertaining your child. 

    It is a great way for your child to build their imagination and work through their emotions. 

    Pikler triangles are a great open-ended item to have in your Yes space to encourage open-ended play because not only can they use the Pikler Triangle for climbing but they can experiment with friction and forces by using the ramp and sliding different toys down. 

    This is what makes play the work of childhood. During play, they are always learning and experimenting. 

    Read more about independent play here.

    Problem Solving Skills

    Problem-solving skills are a lifelong skill to have in your child’s toolbox. As they play independently and they test their abilities and try different things they are working through problem-solving skills. 

    For example, if your child is first learning how to climb the Pikler triangle, they go rung by rung and find themselves at the top. Now what? They have two choices, climb over top or climb back down. This is where those problems solving skills come into play. Which is the better option? Is one riskier?  Their brain has to way the options and decide on what the best choice is. 

    If they are trying to set the ramp up but struggling with getting it on a rung, they need to formulate a plan that will help them to achieve their goal. And if you watch carefully they will try several plans before finding the one that works.  

    But if you don’t allow them to play independently and swoop and save the day then they don’t get the opportunity to build those problem-solving skills. 

    Best Pikler Triangles on the Market 

    For the basic Pikler triangle and ramp my favorite on the market is this one

    Another option is this Colorful Pikler Triangle set with a rock climbing board. You get all pieces that will grow with your child.  Go from pulling up, to climbing, to more complicated play like balancing. 

    Another great option for older children is this Jumbo Pikler Triangle from Rad Children’s Furniture. It is great for kids over 2 ½ years old. So if you are starting with older children this may be your best option. 

    What to Consider before buying a Pikler Triangle

    There are several things to consider before you purchase your Pikler Triangle.  I came up with a handy list of things to consider before deciding on a final purchase. 

    • Does it come with any add-ons? 
    • Is it size appropriate for my child? 
    • Will it grow with my child? 
    • Does it have good reviews? 
    • What are the negative reviews it has? 
    • Is the prize worth the added value over a cheaper option? 
    • Do I love the color? 

    Where to buy a Pikler triangle?

    With Pikler triangles becoming more and more popular, many websites are selling them now.  

    Places I recommend when purchasing a new Pikler triangle:

    Places you can find a used Pikler triangle: 

    • Facebook marketplace
    • Children’s consignment stores
    • Resale shops and secondhand stores
    • Montessori Facebook groups
    • eBay

    If you purchase a used Pikler Triangle make sure that it is safe by checking the rungs and making sure it is secure. Also, make sure if you are having it shipped that the person has a good reputation as a seller and try to purchase through a protected source like Paypal.  

    Should you buy a Pikler triangle on Etsy?

    Absolutely! Etsy is a great place to purchase your Pikler triangle.  They have so many to choose from and the prices range from around $50-$500.  And you can find add-ons and accessories for your Pikler Triangle. 

    When you’re deciding whether to buy from an Etsy store make sure you check all the reviews, positive and negative, and read all the descriptions and shipping policies so you are not taken by surprise. 

    Can you add on other pieces to your Pikler triangle?

    Adding other pieces to your Pikler triangle can keep your child interested in it as they grow older.  

    Some common accessories include a playmat to put it on, slides, ramps, climbing boards, and rope boards. 

    What Do the Pikler Triangle Accessories Cost?

    Many Etsy shops have a variety of climbing boards and slides for around $120 each. They have ramps, climbing boards, and slides that all make your Pikler triangle that much more versatile. 

    You can also find climbing arches to go with your Pikler triangle for around $190 on Etsy.  

    The Best Pikler triangle alternatives 

    While I absolutely love the Pikler triangle for developing gross motor skills, there are several alternatives that also help develop gross motor skills. You may want some alternative or some additional players for kids who are climbers. 

    Rocker boards are a great way to develop fine motor skills and balance.  This is my favorite one.  I love the bright rainbow on one side. While kids can use this for balance it can also be turned over and used as an arch to climb on. 

    These three-sided triangles while they’re called Pikler triangles are not Pikler triangles. But they are great for developing the same climbing and balance skills as the Pikler triangle.  

    This set of lightweight Crawl and Climb foam blocks is another alternative to the Pikler triangle. I love this for my climbers because it always provides them a soft landing. And they can be built in so many ways that it is like a new play space every time they play.   

    If you can’t get around the price of a Pikler triangle, then a decent substitute could be an Indoor Play Slide, but it doesn’t give as many opportunities as some of the other options but the price is much more affordable. 

    How to Build a Pikler Triangle if you want to DIY it

    If you’re handy and you were looking to save some money on buying a Pikler triangle, you may consider trying to DIY one.  

    So the great news is you do not have to do this on your own. I found a couple of really great plans to help you build your Pikler triangle right there at home using around $50 in materials.  

    Instructables has this basic plan on how to make a Pikler Triangle without any additional structures like the ramp or a climbing arch. I love the helpful advice along with the instructions for things like choosing the wood and options to make it fold. 

    If you are looking for a video tutorial, Wicked Makers has an incredible video on how to DIY your own Pikler Triangle with a cool rock climbing ramp. 

    The Bottom Line: A Pikler Triangle is SOO Worth it!

    When your baby starts pulling up and eventually start climbing on everything a Pikler triangle gives them a safe place to explore these new skills.  

    Pikler triangles are a safe option to add to your Montessori playroom that helps your child to develop gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and self-confidence.  

    With the surge in popularity, there are so many places to purchase them from and even several DIY Pikler triangle plans. 

    It can be one of the best investments for your child’s play space.  

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

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  • Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play

    Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to cope with stress. All of this translates into an increase in physical and mental health issues, particularly in children.

    What is Risky Play?

    To begin, risky play isn’t synonymous with dangerous play. For many adults, risky play is what we became accustomed to as young people. This was before fear became an all too present element in parenting.

    Remember riding your bike alone or exploring the creek in the neighborhood park? These are normal, everyday activities that children should experience. Today, however, children are experiencing risky play less and less often.

    Some ways you may see kids engaging in risky play are:

    • playing at heights
    • running at high speeds
    • using things in ways that aren’t intended (climbing the couch, going up the slide instead of down)
    • rolling down hills
    • climbing rocks
    • walking on anything that requires balance
    • spinning in circles
    • jumping off anything and everything

    In addition, risky play is often unstructured. This means that the child is free from direct adult supervision. Of course, if you have a young child engaging in risky play, you may still be at the park or in the home nearby, but you are letting them climb, explore, and build without fear or retribution. Risky, unstructured play gives the child a chance to explore, imagine, and self-regulate in a way that structured, adult-initiated play does not.

    Although risky play can happen indoors, so much of positive risky play happens outdoors. In a world dominated by screen time and personal devices, I am a huge advocate of getting our kids outside to experience nature! Rain, snow, or sunshine, outdoor play with risky elements helps children engage in imaginative exploration.

    Research on Risky Play

    Dr. Peter Gray writes in his book Free to Learn, “Over the past 60 years we have witnessed, in our culture, a continuous, gradual, but ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play freely, without adult control, and especially in their opportunities to play in risky ways. Over the same 60 years we have also witnessed a continuous, gradual, but ultimately dramatic increase in all sorts of childhood mental disorders, especially emotional disorders.”

    Gray’s findings come from the study of a school, Sudbury Valley, that focuses on the philosophy of student ownership and community responsibility of learning. Ultimately, the students design their own learning path. Grade levels and formal courses are not part of the Sudbury way. In fact, risky play and exploration is encouraged. Gray sees the result as students that are more resilient, independent, and able to navigate the world after their school years.

    Parental (Over)-Involvement

    Today, parents are often seen hovering over kids at the playground, or even worse, following them up into the playground equipment. Parents aren’t necessarily doing this to play with their child but to make sure they don’t fall or get minor bumps and bruises. “Helicopter parenting” isn’t necessarily new, but it seems like it’s becoming the norm rather than the exception. This also means many children aren’t scaling rocks and climbing trees anymore. They aren’t jumping from heights that are just a little too high. Our kids aren’t taking risks!

    Funny enough, injuries haven’t decreased. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Why? Children are not testing their bodies enough. They are more likely to get hurt because they are grossly unaware of their physical limits.

    We need to shift our mindset. These are things we should be encouraging our kids to do. Take a breath, step away from the top of the slide, and let them take healthy and age-appropriate risks. As Gray states in his 2014 Psychology Today article, “Play, to be safe, must be free play, not coerced, managed, or pushed by adults.”

    Benefits of Risky Play

    When children are allowed to engage in risky play, it gives them a chance to expand their imagination. For example, building a fort out of couch cushions and furniture that a child may climb over and under can open a world of story-telling, building, and all-over imaginative play!

    The power of play itself simply can’t be disputed. Play is the basis for how young children learn. By encouraging risky, unstructured play, children develop physical and mental skills that build imagination, resilience, and physical endurance.

    Gray also states that risky play allows children to experience a healthy sense of fear. When adults do not allow kids to engage in risky play, they are unable to experience self-regulation and understand what their limits are.

    Besides just being plain fun, risky play gives young people a chance to build resilience, fear, strength (in spirit and physicality), and experience a world of imagination. It’s time for adults to remember what it was like to be young again when risky play was a normal part of our everyday lives! Let your kids play, set some appropriate boundaries, of course, but let go a little bit to let them experience risky play.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • How to effectively teach a child to entertain themselves

    How to teach play skills & What to do when a child can’t entertain themselves

    One of the reasons children struggle to entertain themselves is because they don’t have the play skills they need. Play is not just a way for your child to have fun, but it is how children integrate ideas and concepts into their minds. Playing is the work of childhood. 

    Can you give a child too much attention?

    There is no such thing as too much affection or care, but solving all your child’s problems and ensuring they are never bored can cause more harm than good. 

    Your child needs opportunities to overcome their struggles on their own. One of the hardest things you can do is watch your child struggle with something and not jump in and solve it. Particularly if you are used to helping your child with everything. 

    While you shouldn’t just sit back and let your child struggle to the point of tears, allow them to try their ideas. 

    At first, they may expect you to solve their problems for them.  This problem can be solved by pretending to be equally stumped by the task and asking for ideas.

     At what age should a child be able to entertain themselves?

    Even at 6 months old, children are capable of entertaining themselves, but it is for periods of 5 minutes or so. As children grow so does their ability to entertain themselves as long as they are given opportunities for solo play. 

    Toddlers who have always been given the opportunity to play solo can entertain themselves for upwards of 30 minutes. 

    But that comes with practice. If your child is used to you playing with them all the time, start slowly by just being in the same room or sitting quietly by them while they play. 

    Is it okay for a child to play alone?

    You can let your child play alone without feeling guilty. Solo play helps them develop independence and problem-solving skills. 

    While they are playing alone, that doesn’t mean they have to be in a completely separate room from you. You can still share the space while they play.

    How to let go of the Mom guilt!

    Mom guilt is a very real feeling. But there is nothing wrong with letting your child play independently. 

    You are not neglecting them, you are allowing them to do what children across history have done, play independently. 

    Think of all the benefits you are giving your child by allowing them to play solo. They will know how to be independent thinkers who can work through problems.  

    It also helps them develop a sense of self, which can help them choose to make the right choices when everyone else is making wrong ones because they aren’t afraid to do their own thing. 

    We have painted this world where a mother has to be all the things, she needs to be a good and loving wife, a hard, dedicated worker, a loving and devoted mother. And somewhere along the way, we have started equating a good mother with a child who is never bored and is always happy and entertained.  It is just not realistic.  

    Remind yourself of the benefits of solo play and that you are a loving, caring mother who is always trying to make the best decision to let your child grow into a strong, independent, caring individual. There is not a single reason to have a shred of mom guilt about your child playing by themselves. 

    How do you teach a child to entertain themselves? Introduce Independent Play!

    So what is the magic formula that gets a child from needing your eyes and approval on every minute of their day to a child who can entertain themselves while you do what you need to do? Time, patience, and independent play. 

    Why is my child always bored?

    A child can be surrounded by things to entertain them and still be saying they are bored. Why is that? 

    For parents, we look around and think “You have a million things to play with, how can you be bored?” 

    We need to understand what a child means when they are saying they are bored.  

    Sometimes a child is saying they are bored because they need more activity and physical movement. Taking some time for them to play outside or go on a walk can instantly cure that boredom. 

    For other kids, they are seeking a sense of connection. If you have been extra busy, they may just be asking to spend some time with you. 

    But most often, the reality is most kids today haven’t had to deal with boredom. Children don’t have that often to just be alone with their thoughts and come up with ideas on their own. 

    Between schedules that are overflowing with playdates and activities and classes and the abundance of screens and screen time, kids just haven’t had the practice at being bored. 

    Being bored can be uncomfortable but learning how to overcome boredom and do something constructive and active with their time can lead to better focus and longer attention span.

    Why free play is important?

    Free play is essential for not only a child’s cognitive development but also their physical development. 

    Remember how I said that play is the work of childhood?  Play is how children practice things they have learned academically, socially, and physically. 

    Children learn to problem-solve when they come to an obstacle during solo play and have to figure out the solution on their own. 

    They also learn risk management skills through free play. For example, at a playground, there are some stepping stones, but they are spread pretty far apart. Your child stands there pretending the ground is lava, can she stretch her leg far enough to reach this stone or should she jump to that stone. 

    Is she in any actual danger? No. 

    But her brain is learning to calculate which choice is riskier.  That turns into her being able to critically think about a situation as a teen and make a mental calculation of what the best choice is. 

    The more times she gets to practice this kind of risk management with free play, the better she will be at making decisions through life. 

    Free play is an extremely important part of a child’s cognitive development. 

    Provide The CORRECT Toys for Self-Entertainment

    Another important part of introducing self-entertainment is the child having the correct kinds of toys that lend to more active play and less passive play. 

    So how can you tell what the correct toy is? The more simple the toy, the more active the play. 

    A simple set of Lego bricks or Duplo bricks means that a majority of the entertainment value comes from within the child. With their imagination and hard work, a child can take a box of Legos and create a 4 story hospital with multiple rooms, or a fantastical machine that your child tells you turns vegetables into ice cream. 

    Whereas electronic toys, your child is more passive with the play. They don’t have to imagine things for the toy to say, because it can talk for itself. The toy is entertaining the child, not the child entertaining himself. They don’t have to think too much or even use their imagination with the toy. 

    The fewer the toys, the better

    Have you ever looked around your child’s room when they say they are bored and wonder how they can possibly be bored surrounded by all these toys? 

    Too many choices can lead to decision fatigue and your child just shutting down. The choices are overwhelming and stressful. 

    And I understand, every holiday and birthday brings an onslaught of new toys from loving friends and relatives that mean well.  

    I am not saying you have to give all your child’s toys away and leave them with just sticks and rocks. What I am saying is to decide whether you want to pair down their toys or you want to create a toy rotation. 

    We have done a toy rotation in the past. I put a majority of my kids’ toys in boxes and stored them away, leaving several options for them to play with but not an overwhelming amount. 

    An unintended side effect of this was my children having fewer toys to play with meant their play areas were really easy to clean up.   

    At regular intervals, I would bring out a box of toys I had stored and have my kids go “toy shopping.”  And all those old toys that they had been bored with, were like brand new toys. And the toys they had been playing with could go up until the next toy shopping time. 

    It also allowed me to go through the toys that were stored away and pair them down without my children getting upset. 

    Benefits of Solo Play: Once you go Independent play you never go back

    Not only does solo play give parents a break, but it hosts a long list of benefits for children too. 

    Some benefits of solo play are: 

    • Emotional Regulation as children have time to decompress
    • Independence
    • Self-Confidence
    • Improved Problem Solving Skills 
    • Improved Risk Management 
    • Helps them integrate things they are learning about 
    • Learn healthy ways to deal with boredom

    What is Independent play exactly?

    Independent play is when your child has time to play by themselves. It can include time for them to make art, build with legos or play with their toys.  

    Screen time isn’t independent playtime because the entertainment value is not coming from within the child like it does when they play with legos, make art and play with their toys. It doesn’t build the same skill set. 

    How does independent play benefit a child?

    Independent play benefits many areas of a child’s development.  Children learn to decompress and have time to recuperate from all the stimulation that the world has to offer.  They can do this by exploring their space at their own pace and make choices on what to do or play with by themselves.

    When children play alone they start to develop a sense of independence. They learn that they can do things on their own and grow in their self-confidence as they solve their problems.  They start becoming more self-reliant.  

    While they are playing, they start learning how to take educated risks by trying things. 

    They are also learning healthy ways to deal with boredom that aren’t endless screens.  

    What Independent play means for the parent and how it can help relieve stress

    Independent play also helps parents and can lower the overall stress of the family.  Often parents worry about if their child is learning enough and if they are socialized enough, leading to over-packed schedules and overstressed parents. 

    Once your child learns how to play independently, there is less pressure on parents to entertain their child 24/7 and the parents start getting more breaks and downtime for themselves.  

    When you need to do something that you cannot give your child your full attention, they can play on their own.  It’s life-changing.

    What are open-ended toys and why they’re all you need!

    Open-ended toys are toys that do not have a defined way to play with them. Your child can play in many different ways with the same toy.  Open-end toys are not electronic and are usually made of sustainable materials like wood, bamboo, and cotton, but they don’t have to be. You can start with what you have and add things over time. 

    Open-ended toys and activities for infants

    Mushie Stacking Cups: These are hands down have been all of my kids’ favorite toys as babies.  They first discovered them at a grandparent’s house and I wound up ordering a set before we even left. 

    My kids have stacked them inside of one another but soon found out they could make towers and walls with them by turning them upside down.  Because I loved how portable and entertaining they are,  I purchased a set for our diaper bag and a set for home. 

    The Haba Rainmaker is my magic wand to soothe cranky babies. Every time I have pulled it out with a fussy baby, they settle down and their eyes watch in amazement as the balls race down. 

    The Haba Rainbow Fabric Ball is another great option. It’s so soft and the wedge shape to the petals of the ball makes it so easy for even young babies to try to grasp.   

    You can find all my favorite open-ended toys for infants in this gift guide. 

    Open-ended toys and activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers

    Clicques Rainbow Dolls-  I love these brightly colored peg style dolls. My kids love playing with these so much sometimes for little families in a dollhouse, superheroes, students in the pretend mini school my kids run, and even monster truck drivers. 

    Silks- these gorgeous colored silks are perfect for all kinds of play and my elementary age kids play with these just as much.  My littles use them for baby blankets, headscarves to play grandmas, and to show off their magic reveals. My older kids use these almost like dancer ribbons most often but sometimes they help build forts or pretend slings for fake injuries. 

     WAYTOPLAY Roadways are these super cool flexible roads that can be made in many different configurations, and a must-have if you have a little gearhead in your house that can’t get enough cars and monster trucks. 

    For my full list of Open-ended toys for toddlers and preschoolers then check out this gift guide of all my tried and true toys. 

    Open-ended toys and activities for elementary-aged children

    Magnatile- By far the most popular toy with elementary-aged kids is Magnatiles and Magnetic blocks. Hours can be spent building 3 shapes and rooms. And to be completely honest the first time I saw magnatiles I couldn’t quit playing with them, my kids had moved on to playing tea time, and I was still building the best castle ever.  Magnatiles are so much fun and now you can find magnetic blocks and even magnetic wooden dolls like the Clicques. 

    Wobbel Balance Board- this one has so many benefits and is so fun and challenging. Not only is this great for gross motor skill development, but I have seen it turned into a car bridge, a tunnel, and even a seesaw. 

    Wooden Instruments- If you don’t mind a little noise, this set of wooden instruments has such great variety that every time your kid explores this set, they will find new ways to make music. 

    Things to avoid when teaching your child to play by themselves

    Teaching your children to play independently is possibly going to be more difficult on you than it is on them. 

    As parents, it’s easy to see ourselves as our child’s savior, and letting our children struggle can feel unnatural and even stressful for us.  

    The 3 things you want to avoid while teaching your child to play by themselves are don’t interrupt them, don’t rescue them, and don’t hover over them. 

    Don’t interrupt them

    Don’t interrupt your child as they work through starting to play independently. 

    I found it hardest to not interrupt when I saw my toddler trying something that I didn’t think would work.  Trial and error is part of them playing independently. 

    Just take a few deep breaths when you want to interrupt and remind yourself that they are having fun and do not need help or advice. 

    Don’t jump to action every time they ask 

    Our little loves are so used to saying “Mommy help me!” that when they start playing independently, they will probably say it a lot. You can be caring and still encourage them to figure it out themselves. 

    Things to say when your child asks for help: 

    • In what way have you tried to do this? 
    • What do you think? 
    • Oh, I don’t know, can you help me figure it out? 
    • Okay, I will help you in a few minutes, as soon as I go do this. (Most of the time they will figure it out before you get back) 

    Watch from afar, don’t get in the way!

    Putting some distance between you and your little one makes it easier for them to focus on playing and will make it easier for you to let them explore.  You can stay in the same room or you can go to an adjacent room. 

    Don’t feel guilty, you can always peek in on them without drawing their attention. 

    Note: Screentime doesn’t count as solo play…

    Just a reminder that screen time is not the same as independent solo play because screen time does not allow your child to build the skills independent play does.  You can check out my in-depth article about screen time here. 

    The Bottom Line: You are not responsible for keeping your child entertained. You can effectively teach your child to entertain themselves and create a happier, healthier home.

    Let go of the mom guilt that says you must keep your child entertained at all times. You can provide your child a safe place to explore and play independently that helps them to grow in their physical skills and cognitive skills.   And that independent play can lead to a less stressful home and a much happier family. 

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

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  • How to entertain a bored toddler at home with little effort

    How to entertain a bored toddler at home with little effort

    “Mom! I’m bored!” is something children repeat over and over. 

    What can you do at home to entertain a bored toddler? Do you play with them? Why not let them be bored? Is there even any benefits to being bored? 

    Open ended or parent directed play can entertain toddlers, but being bored is not always a bad thing. It can even help build your toddlers brain! 

    We live in a world where children are expected to be busy or scheduled from dawn to dusk. Giving the child the time and space to be bored can help them develop their creativity, learn to self regulate and improve focus.  

    By having a well-stocked and inviting play space at home, it is easy to entertain a bored toddler at home without using screens so that they can play independently.  

    How to Keep a Toddler from being Bored

    How do you keep your toddler from being bored? Simply, you can’t always keep them from getting bored. Despite the latest toys and plenty of outdoor time, kids still get bored.  

    Let’s discuss the benefits of being a bored toddler. I’m about to let you in on a secret:

    Being bored is not a bad thing, in fact, it is good for toddlers

    I know. The bored, whiny toddler doesn’t feel like a good thing. It can be really frustrating, but it’s good to experience your child being bored. 

    In fact, our brain needs boredom.  

    Boredom can be a very unpleasant feeling. 

    Their brains are craving new stimuli, so they turn to you to provide them with something novel to do. When we hand them our phones or turn on a cartoon we are buying their silence, but we aren’t helping them to develop the ability to come up with their own play.  

    When we resist the urge to give them the fastest thing possible and allow them to be bored, their brains will find a stimulus to entertain themselves. 

    Boredom fuels creativity. 

    And it works the same regardless of your age. Adults, children, and toddlers all benefit from boredom. Not only does boredom motivate your child to be more creative, but it also encourages them to seek out new experiences.  We wouldn’t be as adventurous if boredom didn’t exist.

    Perhaps the best benefit of boredom at a young age is self-regulation and improving focus. 

    That’s right! A child’s brain is better able to self regulate and focus if it is allowed to experience boredom and overcome it. Imagine that! 

    In this Psychology Today article, you can learn more about the benefits of  boredom. 

    How often should you be playing with your toddler?

    “Mommy, mommy play with me!I can feel it too, that deep sigh building in your chest. 

    I know what you are thinking, “If I eat one more pretend cupcake, I’m going to lose it.”” 

    Sitting down to play with your child isn’t something that has been around that long. Until recent history, adults and children had work to do in the home and very little free time to play.  And there are many theories on the importance of parent child play and how often it should be done. 

    So how long should you be playing with your toddler? As often as feels comfortable playing with them.  

    The most important things are to put your phone away, give your child undistracted attention and not to take over the play space. Let your child lead you in their world and join in as much as you want. 

    If you just want to sit close and observe and comment occasionally, that’s perfectly okay. And if you want to play Barbies and dress up, then go for it. 

    While playing with your child is fun, it should not be the only way they play. They should also have plenty of time to play and explore without adult interference. 

    Set Your Play area up with independent play in mind

    Your child needs time to play independently. You want to make the play area or playroom independent-play friendly when you’re setting it up. 

    Why is having a play area important for toddlers?

    Independent play is important to a child’s development. And their play space needs to be functional in a way that the child can play with it. 

    Having an organized play area that is not overwhelmed with toys and colors is the best way to help your child use the space effectively and get the most out of their play.

    Playroom/Area ideas 

    A playroom must be organized so that it can be used by children. 

    Organize the space using small boxes, buckets or baskets like these from Target. The child is able to get toys by themselves, since the baskets are lightweight.  And labeling the baskets with specific toys, like cars or dolls, helps with cleanup. 

    Keeping toys in a basket of just one type can prevent kids from becoming overwhelmed. 

    Large toys can sit openly on shelves or the floor so they are inviting to play with. 

    You should also keep like toys together. So baby dolls and baby doll furniture should live close together. 

    When making a play area, take cues from preschool and kindergarten classrooms and set up different stations. 

    The play kitchen should be separated from the block area.

    If you don’t have enough room to separate toys, only having one or two types out at a time can make it less overwhelming for your children. 

    This also helps getting toys cleaned up and reset for the next play session.

    For more information about organizing a play area check out my article here.  

    Ditch the electronics and go for Open-Ended Toys

    It is so easy to just hand a bored toddler a phone or a tablet and let them binge Youtube kids. But is it the best way to deal with their boredom? 

    Not really. We all know that screen time should be limited for children (and adults, I know that hurts). But when your child is upset and cranky about being bored it feels like the best solution. 

    But open ended toys are far better than electronic toys, including those with sound and lights even though they’re marketed as educational toys. 

    Open-ended toys encourage open-ended play. 

    What is open-ended play?

    Open ended play is any kind of play that can be done in any way. There is no right or wrong way to play. 

    It lets your child express their creativity so they can decide how the play should go. This could be a creative artistic activity like leaving out several types of art materials and non art materials without any instructions on how they should be used and allowing your child to make their own art. 

    Examples of Open Ended Play: 

    • Playing with playdough or kinetic sand
    • Building with blocks (including magnetic blocks) 
    • Building with Lego 
    • Playing with dolls or toy animals 

    To learn more of the benefits of open ended play check out this post here

    Open-ended toys for toddlers

    • Kinetic Sand is great for open ended play, but it does need to be supervised by an adult if the child is still exploring by putting things in their mouth. Scoops, molds, and household items can make playing with kinetic sand even more fun. (I love this set of kinetic sand tools)
    • Playdough can be homemade or store bought. Playdough is excellent for developing fine motor skills and imagination. The kinetic sand tools can also be used on playdough. 
    • Blocks- blocks can come in a variety of types, like magnet blocks, foam blocks, wooden blocks and *gasp* even plastic blocks. I linked to some of my favorite blocks that we love in our playspace. 
    • Lego Duplo blocks are great for fine motor skills, spatial intelligence, and creativity. Kids who tend to be more mechanically inclined or logical oriented may benefit greatly from this activity to tap into their creativity. Lego offers this great classic set of Duplo blocks that aren’t directly part of a set so they are more open-ended. You can get them here.
    • Rainbow Stacker- This is a playroom best-seller but isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it’s also a lot of fun and kids love it. One of my favorite ones are right here.  
    • Realistic Toy Animals: I love realistic toy animals, made of rubber or plastic, these are fun to play with. Kids love these miniature animals. They can play safari, have their own zoo, or lead an animal parade. This is one of my favorite sets. 
    • Wooden Peg Dolls: wooden peg dolls are the perfect size for little hands, they are made of wood so less plastic, and they do not enforce unrealistic beauty standards. I have 3 sets that I really love. For customizability you cannot go wrong with this peg doll kit. For quick and easy, this painted set of peg dolls is great.  And if you are wanting to use the peg dolls to also work with emotions, this set of peg dolls is perfect. 

    Also check out: Open-ended toys myths, busted 

    The Bottom Line: A bored Toddler isn’t always a bad thing!

    Boredom is not always a bad thing, even if it is unpleasant to feel. Boredom can inspire creativity, build self-control and teach independence.  

    In a busy world full of jampacked schedules, one of the best things you can do for your child is give them the freedom to play and to be bored. 

    Because in the end that is how you can keep a toddler entertained for hours. By letting them learn to be bored and play on their own they develop the ability to entertain themselves. 

    For more ideas on getting kids to play independently check out my article here.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

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  • The Benefits of Boredom

    The Benefits of Boredom

    “I’m bored.” Of course, you have no doubt heard this phrase from your kids. It’s an all too common chorus at home that causes parents to sigh and sometimes scramble for things to do. However, boredom is not a bad thing. In fact, there are many benefits to boredom. Especially in today’s age of instant gratification, it’s important for your kids to be bored. In fact, having that feeling of boredom allows for creative exploration. Here are some ways boredom fosters play.

    Here are 3 benefits of boredom

    Benefit of Boredom: Kids Start Pretending

    First, role playing, acting, and other types of pretend play is one of the best benefits of boredom. Encourage your children to play house, school, or other games where they act and become their own characters. One way to do this is organizing your home play space intentionally. Having a pretend play area is as simple as having a box or bag of costumes or props. Listen to the creative stories and ideas your children come up with as they pretend play. Refresh your pretend play bin with old Halloween costumes or shirts or outfits you’ve outgrown (in style or size). If you’re comfortable, throw in some safe make-up to let your kids have fun with their own unique styles. Next, have a building play space with boxes, blocks, or loose materials where your kids create and pretend. Believe it or not, big kids love doing this too! Pretend play is one type of play to come out of boredom.

    Benefit of Boredom: Art is Created

    Have you ever let your child use your phone or an electronic device with a camera? Look through the camera roll and check out the unique views they have of the world when they seemingly are bored with nothing else to do. Another awesome benefit of boredom. Photography is also art, and some of the coolest pictures on my phone are when my kids snap what they see from their own vantage point. In addition, having art materials accessible and ready in your home (even small simple things like recycled paper and pencils) is an outlet for those moments of boredom. Of course, playing with different mediums and art helps your students discover more about themselves and take that boredom into creation mode. Overall, artistic play is definitely a way to turn boredom into imaginative exploration.

    Boredom Give The BrainTime to Imagine

    Research from Doctors Erin and David Walsh in Psychology Today show that the parts of the brain which engage in creativity and imagination activate when we’re bored or seemingly unengaged. This unfocused “bored” time is the perfect channel for play and new ideas. Since kids’ brains are thrown external stimuli, another benefit of boredom is that it gives kids a chance to take a break. They think about things they are passionate about, want to create, and explore new ideas! Boredom is the fuel for creativity. Overall, boredom is not a bad word when it comes to your kids! Look at these ways that boredom fosters play. By organizing your play space and allowing your kids to be bored, their imaginations can engage in activities they may not normally explore. How can boredom become play time in your home?

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

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