The Wonder of Play

Albert Einstein said that “Play is the highest form of research”. The psychologist Vygotsky said that “A child’s play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has required”. Mr Rogers said of play that it “…gives children a chance to practice what they are learning”. It’s no secret then that play is essential for learning, indeed play is learning.

Recently, H’s play has consisted of small world and role play. At two and a half, H started to show interest in small world play and would act out little scenes with her teddies. It would literally only last a minute or two but it was fascinating watching her process her world through play.  This kind of play has since developed and she now has entire back stories complete with different characters – often a mummy and a daddy and an H. Before I go any further, I feel like I need to mention that my kid (like most kids) can turn any object into a character. Blocks, pens, cutlery, and (most recently) milk bottle lids. I love that children are capable of conjuring up characters and props with what they have available – sticks for swords, a wooden block for a hairbrush, and a slipper for a Barbie car (that last one was my chosen mode of transport for my Barbie).

Some children may need a little help developing this skill and so you might like to provide a few bits to encourage their imagination. Puppets are an easy way of doing this and they’re also simple to make (mostly – unless you consider yourself a bit of a Gepetto then please by all means crack on). All you really need is a sock (if you don’t have one, please let me know and I will gladly post you one of the 753 odd socks we seem to have accumulated) and some googly eyes. You could even chuck some wool on top if you’re feeling fancy. Should you be fresh out of socks and my offer to provide you one doesn’t appeal to you, then wooden spoon puppets could be the way forward for you and your littles. All you need are wooden spoons (surprise!) and Sharpies and then get to drawing.

If you’re stuck for ideas for characters, use your child’s favourite fairytale or bedtime story. Nothing develops a child’s speech and language quite like retelling a story they have frequently heard. Lolly sticks are also great for this. You could make a morning out of your puppet-making. Depending on how creative you are feeling (or how much sleep you’ve had), you can make it as simple (sock and googly eyes) or complex (sequins, glue gun, beads, fairy dust) as you like.

We decided that because this type of play seems to be H’s favourite at the moment, it would be worth investing in a toy that would allow her to fully immerse herself in it and so we bought her a dollhouse. I very happily fell down a rabbit hole of different brands but I found my H’s dreamhouse in Tender Leaf Toys’ Foxtail Villa. It was love at first sight – the gorgeous painted details, the sturdy wooden features, and beautifully crafted accessories which aren’t fiddly and can easily be handled by little hands. While the construction of the house took about an hour, it was straightforward and the instructions clear and easy to understand.

My marriage has only been under threat twice – one incident involved rugby, and the other involved the construction of a bicycle which was nearly launched over the fence, so easy-to-understand and clear instructions are important to us.


The Tender Leaf figurines stand without trouble which is important when you have a threenager who gets frustrated when things don’t work the way they’re supposed to. I had so much fun setting up each of the three floors of the house and H had fun rearranging it all and making it hers. I’m not sure what my expectations were but I have so enjoyed watching her play with it – currently the house has been overrun by H’s other passion (dinosaurs) and a triceratops is currently rooming with Tender Leaf Girl. I can’t wait to see how H’s play changes as she gets older and what other guests she decides to introduce to her little family.

I’d love to know what this kind of play looks like in your house. How do you foster imaginative play? Let me know at @bornforblueskies.


Stace x 

David Neale