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3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

It seems that no matter where we look these days, experts are talking about the importance of play. Doctors are prescribing it. Child development experts are advocating for it. Parents everywhere are clamoring for more play in the classroom. It’s no exaggeration to say there is an educational crisis in the world today, and it stems directly from a lack of play in our children’s lives. Play makes learning fun and helps our children build executive function skills for a happy and successful life. But did you know there are THREE different types of play that have a powerful impact on our kids?

Three powerful types of play every parent needs to know!

3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

1) INDEPENDENT PLAY

Sometimes called free play or creative play, independent play is critical to the emotional and social development of our children. When children play independently, they are in charge of which materials they want to play with and what the rules of their play entail. True independent play allows young children to develop and practice new skills, which is why you’ll see toddlers and preschoolers do the same action (dump and fill, for example) over and over again.

(Read more about kids and repetition here.)

Independent play builds these executive function skills:

  • making a plan
  • solving problems
  • self-monitoring

Learn how to teach independent play to young children.


2) CONNECTED PLAY

When a child and a trusted adult do an activity together, I call it “connected play.” This type of play can be kicking a soccer ball around in the yard, going for a bike ride, or working on a puzzle. The purpose of connected play is to strengthen relationships and spend time together.

Connected play can be adult-directed or a shared process between child and parent. It’s important to take turns choosing the activity, though it’s okay to give your child a few choices to pick if you need some variety. 😉

Connected play builds these executive function skills:

  • taking turns
  • regulating emotions
  • understanding different points of view
  • having empathy and recognizing the needs of others

Learn more about executive function skills here.


Learning through play is the best way.

3) LEARNING THROUGH PLAY ACTIVITIES

If you’ve spent much time on our Facebook or Instagram pages, you know that we are a BIG fan of learning through play. It’s worth mentioning that learning through play activities are not TRUE independent play, because they are often parent- or teacher-directed. They are fun and help reinforce important academic skills, for sure–but they cannot be the only play experience for our children.

If your child attends a preschool program, be sure to ask the director what percentage of time children are given for independent (child-directed) play. These are often called “centers.” A good program will give young children the freedom to learn through exploration along with adult-directed learning activities. 

Learning activities build these executive function skills:

  • paying attention
  • staying focused
  • completing tasks

Click here to see our full directory of learning through play activities.


Until our education system remembers how children learn best, the responsibility falls on parents to make playtime a priority. The ideal is giving your children all three types of play on a regular basis.

SMARTplay mini-class

Learn more about the types of play in our SMARTplay mini-class–absolutely FREE!

13 Fun Transportation Books for Kids

13 Fun Transportation Books for Kids

All young children love all things related to transportation and vehicles. From airplanes to trains to school buses, toddlers and preschoolers are obsessed with things that go! These transportation books for kids are a great way to match early literacy skills to a topic children already love.

13 Fun Transportation Books for Kids

13 FUN Transportation Books for Kids

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

Bear Takes a Trip:  

  •         Where would you go on a trip?  
  •         Find all the things on each page that are round/have stripes/triangles/etc.
  •         Spot the clocks. Discuss what time your family eats meals, gets ready for bed, participates in activities, etc.
  •         Related: Bear on a Bike

Little Blue Truck:

  •         Why is the Little Blue Truck so happy?
  •         How can we show kindness to others?
  •         Make a related sensory bin with corn filler and farm animals. Add a little blue truck and yellow dump truck if you have them.
  •         Everyone is dirty after helping the dump truck—give your child a small bowl of water and a washrag to clean his/her toy vehicles (or wash the family car together!).  
  •         Related: Little Blue Truck Leads the Way

We All Go Traveling By:

  • Talk about the unique illustrations and set up a sewing station for older preschoolers to decorate a blue train car made from felt.
  • Take a walk/drive and discuss all the vehicles you can “spy” with your little eye. What sounds do you hear?
  • Listen to the story on CD.

Transportation Activities

Grab our Transportation Family Activity Guide with 40+ learning ideas for kids ages 2-6!

 


More Transportation Books for Kids

My Bus/My Car (or any book by Byron Barton)  

Freight Train/Sail Away (or any book by Donald Crews)  

Curious George Loves to Ride by Margret Rey

I Read Signs by Tana Hoban

Red Light, Green Light by Anastasia Suen (great for opposites!)


JUST FOR FUN: Play “spot the sheep”—several books have sheep in the illustrations (Little Blue Truck, Bear Takes a Trip, We All Go Traveling By).

Read Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox


Little Blue Truck Sensory Bin

Creating a transportation sensory bin for your child is a perfect way to connect play with early literacy!

Our latest sensory bin features characters from Little Blue Truck in a bin of unpopped popcorn. Our daughter loved filling and dumping the corn in and out of the trucks and re-enacting the story with our farm animals.


What are your favorite transportation books for kids?

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Transportation Books for Kids and Little Blue Truck Sensory Bin

How to Make an Awesome Christmas Busy Box for Kids!

How to Make an Awesome Christmas Busy Box for Kids!

Winter is coming, and you’re looking for simple play ideas to keep your toddlers and preschoolers learning at home. Between cold weather, rainy days, and lots of holidays preparations that keep parents busy, having a few educational activities set aside for your little ones is a smart idea! Read on to learn how to make a Christmas busy box for your kids. How to Make a Christmas Busy Box for Kids

Note: This busy box can be repurposed for a variety of seasons and holidays. The only thing “Christmasy” about it are the colors I chose — but you could easily make a similar quiet time activities using other colors and symbols!

In case you haven’t heard about busy bags or boxes before, they are simple learning activities that are typically self-contained and set aside for travel, waiting rooms, or quiet time. This Christmas busy box is similar, pulling together a group of open-ended materials that can be used in a variety ways. Toddlers and preschoolers can mix and match their toys for hours of creative play!

Best of all, these materials all fit in one small box, so they can easily travel to a relative’s house or holiday party all season long.

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

How to Make a Christmas Busy Box:

Making a busy bag or box doesn’t have to be complicated! Think of learning skills you want to target with your toddler or preschooler and gather related toys.   This Christmas busy box that I put together focuses on fine motor and counting skills. Put all your materials in a small shoe box!

Christmas Busy Box for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Click here to see a short video explaining how to use these materials in a variety of fun activities!

Recommended Materials for Your Christmas Busy Box:

You can use ANY learning toys you have around your house–these are just a few recommendations that are both quiet and easily transportable.

  • UNO cards (specifically the red and green number cards 0-9)
  • ice cube tray
  • red, green, and white pom poms
  • tweezers
  • red and green foam blocks (1 inch cubes)
  • “velcro sticks” (red and green craft sticks with velco dots on the ends)
  • red and green pegs
  • tree cookie cutter
  • green LEGOs
  • empty (clean) Parmesan cheese container
  • red and green straw pieces
  • shoelace

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Christmas Busy Box and Activity Ideas