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Unplugged: Opportunity or a Challenge?

Much of the world has adapted to living in a high speed and often high stress rat race where down time at home is rare. Children’s activities are typically highly scheduled and structured. Time spent in free choice “play” is less than ever before in favor of sports, and ticketed activities with friends for young and older children alike.

A lot of children don’t know what to do with themselves if they are not “plugged in” or scheduled in one way or another.

Can you even consider that there could be entire generations of children who don’t know how to play imaginatively?

The current situation and practice of “social distancing” due to Corona Virus has temporarily changed schedules and home life rather drastically for most of us.

Granted, this is an unusual and challenging situation for the planet at this point but there are also bound to be especially positive things that grow out of the time and space many of us have with our children right now.

Your time and attention is especially valuable for them right now.

Let’s spark some imagination and unplugged family FUN!

BE PATIENT! It may take some time for creativity to fill the void.

I’ve always believed on the other side of “boredom” there is creativity. Since my children were very young I’ve watched them transcend and at times struggle through the boredom and complaint of “Mom, there’s nothing to doooooo” to new places of exploration and fun.

People have commented that my children are creative. I don’t think they have any more raw materials than any other child in the area of creativity , just maybe some more practice. I’ve never answered to the call of “Mom, we have nothing to do!” with anything other than a list of possible chores or “go read”.

If left to their own imaginations they usually find a project, game, craft or currently some cooking challenge.

Desperate times call for desperate measures so through this unusual circumstance of being home A LOT our children might need a bit of a “push” in the playful direction.

Imagination:

  • Block play: For young child just adding a prop like a few plastic dinosaurs to the same old blocks can invent a new world.
  • Small world play: Check out some small world play scenes from pinterest and create one together. Often just an “invitation to play” with a new scene can spark hours of independent play for a preschooler.
  • Cars: Any toys can be enhanced when an adult gets involved. Each time a child plays with an adult that brings a new twist, challenge or suggestion to the play their own imagination is stretched. Got a roll of masking tape? Great, make a road that goes over the mountains (across the couch) through the valley (space between the chairs) and crosses the river (from couch to coffee table).
  • Humor with words: What would the dog say if it could talk? What would this chair say? Would you rather? Intensely funny thoughts emerge when a family blends imagination and conversation together.
  • Blank Book: Even preschool children can practice storytelling if you give them some paper stapled together like a book and a demonstration.
  • Magic wishing stone: Paint a rock and make some wishes together every day.
  • Fairy garden: Gather some sticks, leaves, string or any household item to recycle and get planning. Dream it, draw it, and build it!
  • Dramatic Play: What about a restaurant in your kitchen for lunch or dinner?

Depending on the age of your children you might initially get some eye rolling and sighs. However, you might just find some good memory making moments and a few laughs when you get down to the basics of PLAYING TOGETHER AS A FAMILY. Even for babies, the value of play is a huge investment in their language development.

Regardless of your child’s age, the language development that grows out of negotiating ideas, solving disagreements and explaining imaginative thoughts in play are priceless.

Unplugged:

  • Jigsaw puzzles: Some deep topics of conversation sometimes emerge in quiet time together over a puzzle.
  • Board Games: Discuss strategies or even develop new rules together.
  • Contests: Minute to win it games or your own family contest ideas can uncover some family talents to talk about for years to come.
  • Family read aloud: Even if your children already know how to read a joint book can spark some great conversations about values, character traits and what if’s. (not to mention vocabulary development)
  • Loose Parts play or art: Making a mosaic or sculpture out of some sticks, pebbles and leaves on the driveway or sidewalk can spark some creativity. How about some toothpicks and marshmallow sculptures? or some Q-tip art? Sometimes it can start off slow but then as you engage together great ideas emerge.
  • Assemble a tinker kit and explore some contraptions together.

There are endless possibilities in our own imaginations if we can let ourselves relax enough for some family fun to emerge while we nest in our homes until this pandemic crisis calms down.

We’d love to hear some of your ideas for unplugged play, imagination and family fun in the comment section of this post.

Pamela Talbot

Pamela Talbot

Pamela is an ASHA certified Speech-Langauge Pathologist dually certified as a teacher of the hearing impaired. She is a Listening and Spoken Language LSLS-AVT. Pamela has extensive experience training parents and professionals at the international level.

2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth T on May 24, 2020 at 10:09 am

    These are great ideas and I will forward the link to a friend who is struggling to motivate either herself or her 9-year old son to follow the not so enticing suggestions from his school. I would add the following ideas:
    Find out what happens when you put various different materials in water. Who knew that a cardboard fish turns into 4 fish after it has soaked for a while? Have a challenge to see how many different small things you can find to fill a matchbox. Make a challenge trail/obstacle course/fitness circuit with some written instructions (for hidden literacy practice). Write and record a radio play with cool home-made sound effects. Find and research a famous painting, then reproduce it with people/objects/costumes, photograph, compare with the original.

    • Language Launchers on May 24, 2020 at 10:34 am

      What GREAT ideas Elizabeth! I’m going to add those to our “Fun things to do at home” list.

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