I don’t have anything to do!
My kids have a ton of toys. Why don’t they play with them?
There are a few reasons that may explain why a child is not playing with toys that are available. One reason may be that they are bored with the “same old, same old.” Michigan State University Extension says many parents get disgruntled when they hear their child is bored, but boredom is a good thing. It is a sign that your child is growing and changing. The toys and activities that have been satisfying in the past no longer meet their needs because new needs are developing. It’s a good idea to watch how your child plays to get an idea of what kind of challenges they will need next. Then, choose toys or activities that are just a little bit beyond their present skill level, so that they will be busy trying to master new skills when using new toys.
To prove we are not suggesting you go out and buy a lot of new, expensive things, remember that children are often most intrigued by toys and materials that let them design their own games. Free or inexpensive things like cardboard boxes, tape, glue, Styrofoam pieces, fabric, egg cartons, Popsicle sticks, etc. can be combined and recombined into many different materials for play. All it takes is a little creativity and, as they say on TV, hours of fun!
Another reason that your child may not be engaged with their toys anymore is that they cannot locate them easily. Sometimes sets of toys are dismantled and scattered about so that the collection of toys looks more like a pile of parts rather than an opportunity for play. Your child’s play space does not need to look like a toy store; if you spend too much time keeping everything highly organized, you may discourage your child from actually using their toys. However, too much disorganization makes it hard for children to focus on the individual pieces. Keeping things loosely organized in bins, tubs and on shelves will let your child focus on what is in front of them. It is a lot more tempting to build a tower with 20 blocks than it is with only the 3 blocks you can find in the heap, right?
A third way to tempt your child into play is to combine two or more toys creating a new play scheme and extending play. When you add trucks, for example, and a few rocks to your set of wooden blocks you have all the elements of a construction site. You can spark some interest with the lump of play dough in the refrigerator by adding plastic knives, cookie cutters, mini-rolling pins and a cookie sheet. Voila – a bakery! Combining items from your household that are not ordinarily thought of as toys can be fun too. Some, including us, remember playing for hours with our grandmother’s collectable salt and pepper shakers; we sang and danced too. Creative play is so rewarding and it takes a lot of time!
So, for a more peaceful, whine-free summer, we suggest investing a little time in observing your child at play and adding to or changing the materials and toys your child uses. It will be fun to see how focused and productive your children can be.
Early childhood development by MSU Extension has plenty additional ideas for summer fun with your child.