Create a “Play Centre” to Ignite the Imagination

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Children who can set the stage for imaginary play end up playing creatively for hours.  This type of play helps young children learn how to problem solve, use materials they have on hand, transform one object into something else, work out emotions and feel in control.

Some children naturally enter into long drawn out games of creative play.  Other children benefit from a little guidance in this department.  If you have any daycare children who look to others (children, adults, electronics) to amuse them then this is a great strategy to use.  Creative imaginative play is very restorative and it produces a beautiful calming effect on young children.

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It’s helpful to set up a ‘play centre’ for your children.  You can take a toy that you have and think of different activities the children would like to do with that toy.  I had a doll bathtub that my daughter has outgrown and decided to create an animal clinic care centre for my daycare children.  I cleared off this shelf in the playroom and put away the play kitchen toys that were previously on it.

I went looking through my daycare toys to see what I could use in this centre.  I found a doctor kit that was easily transformed into veterinarian equipment.   I found two little carriers that would work well to transport pets to the clinic and a few stuffed animals.

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I grabbed some towels, cloths and a few bottles to use as pretend soap and pet shampoo.  I also found some little brushes for grooming the animals and a pair of pretend plastic scissors. I put the toys in baskets and set them all up on the shelf.  When the daycare children arrived the next morning, I showed them the play centre and invited them to explore it if they wished.

Sometimes when children are playing they have an idea and are not sure how to extend the play themselves without the ‘proper’ toy.  One child wanted to give the stuffed dog a dog biscuit after his bath and couldn’t find any pretend food treats in the centre.  I always comment positively on their great idea and then help them look around the playroom for something they feel is a good toy to ‘imagine into’ a dog biscuit.

Most children catch on very quickly and are soon creating whole worlds from their imagination. It is also important to have open ended toys in the playroom that are easily transformed into different objects.  A basket of small soft balls, bean bags, and wooden blocks are all great toy staples.  I love these Wood Craft Rounds .  You could make your own wood play pieces or find something similar (check size for a choking hazard if you have toddlers).  Children tend to come back to this type of open-ended toy again and again in imaginative play.

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Young children love to re-play an activity after they have experienced a memorable event.  We made cookies one morning and my group really engaged in the measuring, mixing, pouring and baking.

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That afternoon, I put some mixing bowls, wooden spoons, a plastic measuring cup and this wooden cookie set out for the children to use in their pretend kitchen play area.  They re-played baking cookies again and again for two weeks.

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Good luck with creating your own play centres for your home daycare children!

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