Aim: The best kind of play for children costs nothing and has one main ingredient — imagination. Introduction: When children are given an opportunity to rely on themselves whilst playing with props, or making up games and stories for themselves they are developing essential critical cognitive skills, these include managing emotional responses, problem solving and forming a personal sense of self-control and self discipline. Taken from the BB Anchors Pro Pack Mind M-2-2
A variety of materials (which could include):
• Pop up tent
• Blow ups — rubber ring, bananas etc
• Large cardboard boxes - empty
• A shop space
• Building blocks
• Craft table with pens and paper
• Rubber animals
• Gardening items
• Cooking items
• Dressing up clothes
• Props — crown, wigs, swords, wands. handbags etc
• Card steering wheel
• Toy doctors set
• Notepad and pen
• Wooden bowls
• Pasta, rice, beans, cereal
• Plates — plastic
• Wooden spoons, whisks
Activity 1 - Creative Spaces
Aim: To create a space where the children can let their imagination free.
Put out a variety of materials so that the children can choose where they want to play. You may want to have a craft table as well so that those who wish to can sit and use their imagination there.
• Make the children an open space for pretend play where they are able to use their imagination. Physically, this will be the hall and you can create smaller areas within the larger space. But it is also a psychological space so don’t let there be any distraction and interruptions to the play.
• Set aside a period of time for the children to fully engage in their own created imaginative worlds.
• Make sure that you provide a variety of things for playing and pretending with, such as a tent or den, animals, building blocks, crayons and paper and other craft supplies.
• Let the children have some uninterrupted time to make use of the space and immerse themselves into it in an imaginative way.
• You may need to enter the space to use an item so that the children can be stimulated into using it for themselves. But then leave the space so that it is a children’s zone as you will impact in some way on the creativity of their play.
• Make sure that the children are aware that their pretend play is important to you — don’t clear away immediately and break down the things that they have created.
• You may wish to end this activity by having story time — possibly moving to a separate space so that you are able to clear away the hail.
• Another option is to ask the children what they were doing — what adventures did you have in the tent today?
Activity 2 - Dressing Up
Aim: To allow the children to imagine a character and to have fun dressing up.
Just fill a box of a basket with clothes and hats and props.
You can build up a dressing up box over time. Gloves, hats, wigs and aprons are easy to find at home and can be something that triggers the imagination of a child, If you can get more adventurous dressing up clothes this will be very exciting for the children. Fancy dress shops, large supermarkets and charity shops will have a wealth of opportunities for you to add to the box.
There a few ways to run a dressing up session —
• Let the children choose one thing. If you have enough allow them to choose an item of clothing and a prop. Let them interact with the space and each other with limited adult involvement.
• Let the children choose one thing and then tell them a story that includes some of the props and costumes. Then after the story tell them that they must go on a journey together and cross the sea in a boat. How will they do this? It you want to change the scenario add something else and you may need to help them, but once you have stimulated the imagination they will begin to respond.
• Give one item of dress up to each child and then tell them that you want them to imagine being that person. They may be in the circus and performing to the crowds. So they might be juggling, walking a tightrope, clowns, or the ringmaster and then put on some music and let them perform for you.
You can change the scenarios but just make sure that you allow the children some free time within the scenario that you have picked. You may need to encourage some but they will get used to this if you do it regularly.
Activity 3 - Create A Scene
Aim: To allow the children to enjoy the space and to work together creating imaginative scenarios.
Create a scenario so that all the children can play together or set up a couple of scenarios.
Put some chairs together to make a bus. Cut out a wheel shape from cardboard and attach it to the first chair. Then have someone pretend to be conductor with a bag of coins. They can take the money, give out tickets and give change.
Doctor’s Surgery Scene
if you have a toy doctors set you can set up a table and two chairs and let someone play the doctor. Give them a pad and they can write out prescriptions. Then create a waiting area for patients who may have come on the bus to see the doctor. You could have two doctors and a nurse if you have a large group.
For this fun idea you will need some saucepans, wooden bowls. Cut out some circle shapes to create a stove on a table. Wooden spoons and whisks are good and any other utensils that you have available to you. Then have a few bowls or pots of pasta, beans, rice, cereal, pots, spaghetti, etc. Have a pot that says salt in big letters and one that says pepper and have some aprons if you can. Then let the children get on with it. Some plastic plates for serving up would be great fun too.