This summer I read a fantastic article in School Library Journal titled, “Read, Play, Grow!” It really inspired me and so I made a change in how I offered my Lapsit program for babies 0-24 months.
For my summer Lapsit in July, after all the circle time activities, I pulled out this surprise:
I told the little toddlers go at it! They had so much fun throwing the bright green and orange paper. Throwing it in the sky, dumping it on the floor, raining it down on their heads, they loved it. I encouraged parents to talk with their children about the texture and colors and narrate what they were doing together. It was such a joyous experience and there were smiles all around. It really helps if you are willing to allow the little ones to make a mess. I promise, the parents will love you for it!
Play is how children at this age learn. They are checking out the world around them and learning by sensory exploration. Parents often struggle with making time for play, or not knowing how to play with children this young. It can feel awkward to get down on the floor and tumble blocks again and again with a toddler. But it really takes no skill, just a willingness to be a little silly and talk and explore with your child. Plus, it’s lots of fun!
I really wanted to emphasize to the caregivers that it doesn’t require expensive toys or equipment to learn through play, or to have fun. Many everyday household items can be turned into something to play with and explore. The fantastic green and orange crinkle paper above, for example, is simply packing paper from Mango, a langauge learning database my library subscribes to. Someone in another department opened that box and thought, “The children’s department could find something to do with that!” It only requires that kind of creative thinking to find imaginative ways to play at home as well.
In September, I went a little more ambitious and tried a craft. Once again, these parents were impressed. Most had never thought of trying a craft with children this young, but all the children were able to participate in some way.
We just put out the contact paper, dumped out buckets of feathers, pom poms, ribbons, and other fun textured items, and let the little ones select whatever they want to stick to their sheets. They loved it! Sensory exploration is so much fun!