We live in a small 2/1 condo, which wasn’t too much of a challenge in itself for making a play space…until we decided to put our home up for sale. Our dining room and outdoor area, which were lovingly appointed as “play spaces” were returned to their original adult-oriented space, and much of our “stuff” was taken to a storage unit to make our home look more spacious and appealing to a potential buyer. Much of this”stuff” included toys, so I had to get creative in ways that were both fun and quick to clean up…. Turns out I had to get a bit more organized the night before. I’m going to try to create a storyboard of our most recent adventure in small play spaces to show that kids really don’t need a lot of space or even a lot of “stuff” to make creative play & exploration a part of our daily lives.
After my 2.5 y/o dd goes to bed I set up an invitation (or 2 or3) for the next day. On this day I knew we would only be home for an hour of play time before it was time to leave. I got out her light box*, 2 types of dry beans, and various sizes of measuring cups and spoons and set it up as an invitation for play when she woke up the next morning.
My affectionate dd likes to cuddle when she first gets up, but soon afterward she looked over & exclaimed, “the light box!” and went over to explore its content. Then she said, “these are beans” (she often narrates her experience). I usually stay close by & track** her play, unless she requests otherwise or if I really MUST do something else (this is usually not the case since I go to bed after and get up before she does). She started off touching everything and moving the beans to various places using her hands and the measuring tools. Eventually some of the beans became “eggs” and she took them outside where they “hatched” into “baby birds” and she made a “nest” for them. Some of the eggs then became “snake eggs.” And then she built the nest up tall and it became a castle.
It’s amazing what kids come up with in their play when they’re left alone without any interference…um, guidance!
*homemade lightbox: large translucent storage container with a lid + holiday lights, I got the idea out of a local magazine, maybe Parenting Atlanta.
**tracking play serves a number of purposes. It is a way for parents to be present with the child without influencing the child’s play. It builds vocabulary. And best of all it helps a child feel valued, accepted, & capable of making choices & decisions.
Invitation to play
Exploring the play invitation
Expanding the play venue
Building a nest
“Come see my nest!”
Eggs in the nest