Keep Calm and Play On: The Toddler Way

Natalie Grebe

If you have ever been in a toddler classroom, you can picture the scene. A room full of many toys and a lot of little people meandering around with those toys. It’s as if they’re in their own little world. A world full of pretending, imagining and play. The stuff in their eyes that makes life fun. To an outsider looking in it may look like a disaster, but through the eyes of a toddler, it is their entire world. Keep calm and play on.

Let’s face it. Toddlers are really good at playing with and getting into things. They play like it’s their job. In fact, playing IS their job. A job that requires many opportunities to master it. For these children, playing helps them learn about their environment. Ultimately, it is the foundation that sets the stage for their ongoing development. 

In today’s fast paced society and push for academics, we can easily lose sight of the power of play. I’m here to remind you not to lose sight of the importance of play. Watch toddlers in action and you will be amazed. You could end up observing a cooking demonstration in housekeeping or a construction site with building blocks. These activities and so many more are what teach the important skills to children. Through play they learn to make believe and explore, problem solve and share. Play helps toddlers imagine and create, take turns and build social skills…all while having fun. What could be better than that? Keep calm and play on.

Children benefit the most from playing freely, in their own way, using their own imagination. This is how open ended play works. Children use materials that have unlimited possibilities and lets their creativity shine through. Close ended materials, on the other hand, are more focused on an objective. Take for instance a shape sorter. The main goal for this toddler loving toy is to correctly place the shapes in the corresponding shape opening. This is a perfectly age appropriate toy, but differs from an open ended toy because the main goal is predetermined. Open ended toys provide many opportunities to be used and played with, without an expectation. Looking for ways to support open ended play in your classroom?

Check out these ideas:

  • Expose toddlers to open ended materials. Things like blocks, play-doh, dress up, and puppets are always a hit. The possibilities are endless! Here’s a great resource for more open ended play ideas: Open-ended Play 
  • Talk to children and ask questions to help support their play. Here are some ways to begin open ended questions:
  • What would happen if…
  • Tell me about…
  • How did you…

This link provides more ways to ask questions: Why Ask Kids Open-ended Questions

As you can see, these questions lend themselves to short answers, rather than one word answers.

  • Offer a variety of materials. Finger paint, dance with scarves and shake musical instruments. These objects are not often found in homes and offer something different. Find what interests your little ones.

Share your ideas for toddlers in the comments section, we’d love to hear from our readers!




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