As I was restructuring the play area in our home this week, I suddenly had a real “aha!” moment. I realised, truly realised, that less is more.
I’m not talking about the amount of toys or accumulation of craft supplies (though that area could use a clean out!) but about invitations to play and create.
You see, I like to go all out. I am so in love with play that I truly enjoy setting up elaborate small worlds for when my children come home or think of little props we can create for dramatic play.
It’s a whole lot of fun and my children think it’s fabulous to have a mom who has crazy play ideas and can make them stuff. But … I have to admit it can be quite time consuming. I can’t sew ocean ceilings every day nor can I transform bedrooms into hospitals each week. And being 39 weeks pregnant, the little time and energy I have is about to disappear all together for a while.
So when it suddenly hit me that it’s ok to let go of my own ideas of what a cool play scene looks like, a whole new world of possibilities opened up.
The fact is that my kids are just as challenged by a simple invitation to create a mini dinosaur world than they are by discovering a dinner table scale dinosaur small world. In a way, it might even challenge them more to get creative with less and help them focus more when presented with fewer materials.
It all makes so much sense. I don’t even know why I have been holding myself up to certain standards to begin with, it’s not like anyone ever asked me to go all Martha Stewart on play. I guess we never stop learning, do we?
Now, let me tell you about this cute little invitation to create a mini dinosaur world I put together. In all it’s simplicity, it’s pretty awesome!
Invitation to Create a Mini Dinosaur World
It all started when I was cleaning out my kitchen cupboard and found this wooden serving tray I forgot I had. I realised it was perfect for setting up simple invitations to play and create. Even more so, it really helped me stay focussed on the “simple” part of these invitations to play: if it doesn’t fit on the tray, it doesn’t go on!
I was inspired by Picklebums post about Dinos and Packaging to set up this invitation to create a mini dinosaur world. We had some cardboard packaging around and my almost 3 year old son is (still) inseparable from his dinosaurs. I thought it would be an easy win, and it was!
I added some fabric scraps so my kids could set their own nature backdrop. It’s quite easy to find some patterns in greens (grass, trees), blues (river, lake), brown (mud, rocks), red and yellow (vulcano!) and patterns (flowers, bushes). If you don’t have any fabric scraps you could use magazines. The paper might be less flexible than fabric but it would definitely do a great job for setting the ground scene.
And lastly I provided a little bowl with a few pieces of bark, glass gems and crochet flowers. It’s a blog post in itself to tell you just how much we’ve used these little crochet flowers I randomly made one day in our imaginative play!
You can use anything you want really, whatever you’ve got handy.
Here are a few images of our mini dinosaur world coming alive.
The kids absolutely loved the fabric scraps. It meant that they could move them around, quickly bringing the river around when someone was thirsty or covering a dinosaur under a crochet flower if it fell asleep (or died!). The volcano also had a couple of outbursts with lava chasing the dinosaurs away and everyone had to go and stand in the river.
Oh, the stories they come up with. I wish I could bottle those moments.
Less Toys Equals More Play
I’m about to put this theory to the test as we’ve slowly started packing up things around the house in preparation for our big move back to Europa and I’ll be spending most of my time taking care of a newborn in the next couple of weeks.
Be ready for some more easy play ideas and simple provocations to be shared here while our family goes through a lot of changes and we’ll be going back to basics for a while.
Here are a few of our other simple play ideas for easy wins:
- make pretend play cookies with blocks and loose parts
- invitation to create a play dough fairy world
- creating a treasure basket for babies and toddlers
- “Day at the Beach” small world
- how to put together an inventor’s box with recycled materials
- Goodnight Gorilla story basket
And see all of our popular dinosaur crafts and activities here!
What easy play ideas are big wins in your family?
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