Motherhood

How to Inspire Kids to Play on Their Own

How to Inspire Kids to Play on Their Own

I’ve read 8,000 articles that say that boredom is good for kids. And I agree — being constantly entertained is not realistic or even fun. When our kids have chill time on their own, they often fall into a zone that’s happy and engaged. But sometimes they still can’t quite get there and seem restless and end up saying, “Mommy, can I have your phone?” or “I’m huuuuuuuuungry.” So, I was psyched to learn this tip…

I always figured that the experts who recommended boredom just let their children loose in their homes and said, “Goodbye and good luck,” and trusted they would find something to play with. Maybe so? But my kids sometimes need a little help getting started.

Then, recently, my mom sent me this article about how to help little ones “enjoy pottering.” I was most interested in how the author suggested putting basic materials around the home to help inspire imaginative play.

Parents do have a role… children need the adults around them to understand that creating their own pastimes requires space, time and the possibility of making a mess (within limits – and to be cleared up afterwards by the children themselves).

They will need some materials too, but these need not be sophisticated – simple things are often more versatile. We’ve all heard of the toddler ignoring the expensive present and playing with the box it came in instead. For older children, a magnifying glass, some planks of wood, a basket of wool, and so on, might be the start of many happily occupied hours…

If a child has run out of ideas, giving them some kind of challenge can prompt them to continue to amuse themselves imaginatively. This could range from asking them to find out what kind of food their toy dinosaurs enjoy in the garden to going off and creating a picture story with some friends and a digital camera.

Nowadays, at home, we try to help our boys play happily by having just a few simple imaginative toys out and visible in the living room. We like masking tape and notebooks with crayons (something about a notebook, versus loose paper, feels exciting and grown up to them). Anton is really really into flashlights and our tape measure, and also aluminum foil is fun to play with. Our kids also LOVE paper cups for stacking and organizing (we discovered this by accident after leaving some out after a party). The boys have always adored this bus (Toby has played with it for almost seven years) and this airplane, and I’ve overheard the cutest pretend dialogue between the wooden people (who go to school, on trips, to the park, even on dates!)

Funnily enough (maybe this is weird to admit!), Anton discovered one morning, while I was in the shower, the joy of playing with tampons, of all things. There was something about how they shoot out like rockets and then expand in water, kind of like these magic sponges, that he found enthralling. Now, when he’s been well behaved, I’ll sometimes say, “Ok, as a special treat, you get to play with a tampon.” (Insert all these emojis here haha.)

Finally, if I have extra time before leaving for work, I’ve recently made little stations, so when Anton gets home from school, he might find the wooden bus and people on the coffee table, and a notepad and crayons on the counter, and a flashlight on the sofa. My gut tells me that it’s easier for his mind to digest those things and start playing on his own, versus walking into the room with three bins of random, mixed-up toy pieces.

What imaginative toys/materials do you like? Do you have simple blocks? Or a dress-up basket? What do your kids like playing with? Magna-Tiles are a hot ticket in our house these days. I’d so appreciate any recommendations!

P.S. An awesome “I’m Bored” jar, and a surprising way to stop tantrums.

(Photo by Hannah Henderson.)

  1. My boyfriend and I live together and his 4 year old lives with us part time. I’ve been trying SO HARD to explain this concept to him but he won’t have anything to do with it. It’s constantly “dad, can I watch videos”, “can I play games on your phone”, “can you watch me play video games”, “can we get a new (insert toy here)”, “can we go to the park”, etc. Yes. I think that some of these things are constructive activities (like playing outside) but he believes in taking his kid to do a fun activity every day. Needless to say, the child is spoiled rotten and doesn’t see the value in anything or understand when something is special. Terrified that if we ever have children together it will be a constant battle between my more conservative parenting style (I raised my two sisters) and his… unique parenting style. Hoping if I read him this article it might help in persuading him, but I doubt it. He told me today he “doesn’t do enough fun activities” with his son before he goes to school every day. Then suggested we start waking up at 7am (we work swingshift) to take him to do “fun things” like go to the park, go pick out a new toy, go to Chuck E Cheese, etc. I’m losing my mind over here.

    • He got so many toys and things from my boyfriend and his grandparents (who spoil him worse than my boyfriend does) I had to go into his room and clean out all of the UNOPENED birthday presents from August, Christmas gifts from last year still in the packaging, and to be honest I Just started donating all of the toys he hadn’t touched in the last three months. SIX GARBAGE BAGS. And I had to actually argue with my boyfriend about this because he thinks it’s “mean” to get rid of his old toys. Then his son started crying about how I was throwing his toys away. And we’re talking baby toys, things he wouldn’t even play with if he kept them. It’s such a struggle.

  2. Alice says...

    Love this! Amazingly helpful post and comments that I will definitely return to!

    I find leaving small scattered groups of toys that don’t necessarily match, like vehicles with pans or dinosaurs with paper, leads to fun. We recently moved and before our furniture arrived I decorated some cardboard boxes with my eldest son’s fingerprint painting to store his books and make his room look jolly. I found him a few hours later pretending his dinosaurs were each eating a different coloured print. The next day they were planets, and on it goes. I think if they had stayed on the wall they wouldn’t have been used, but they were accessible.

    I stroll by your post about letting children lead your walk when we head out together. Often you don’t even need a playground because a dropped apple in a puddle or a dog in a coat is fascinating! I think it’s a similar idea, taking it slowly, giving space, and facilitating the tools and environment for fun.

    Jo, I just love your mothering posts. I can’t imagine how tricky it must be to draw where the share line ends, but personally I think you get it just right and I’m so grateful that you do share – your stories are helpful, comforting, and often fun in a gentle way. So, thank you.

  3. I came late to the ‘Cup of Jo’ party, but am so in love with your blog, Joanna, for myriad reasons! I always find something thoughtful and interesting, something that makes me smile or laugh out loud, and such a gentle tone (in what currently feels like quite a loud and hostile world!) So, thank you!

    In our household, one of our most popular toys is the ever popular Lego (I have 9 and 11 year old daughters). Last year my husband collected discarded Legos from friends whose kids had outgrown them. We gave them to the girls in a big bin. Now there is always a Lego city/creature/story in progress on the floor of the girls’ room. Endless imaginative play!

    The other boredom killer is to just get outdoors. It is impossible to “not have something to do” when there are trees to climb, stones and leaves to collect, streams to wade in… Nature is a bountiful playmate!

  4. You get to play with a tampon as a special treat!! ROFL!! 😂
    Even my 7month munchkin is tired with her toys and finds fun in playing with papers and books and whatever comes on her way other than her toys. She needs something new everyday.

  5. Hi Jo!

    Totally not trying to pimp out one of my favorite people to work with, but this post reminded me of her so I had to share. Meredith Sinclair has been one of the most positive presences in my life since I first made a tiny website for her a half a dozen years ago. You may have seen her on the TODAY Show or similar before talking about toys on behalf of The Genius of Play. Her first book just came out and it is all about PLAY. And how important play is for all ages, not just kids. I linked her website here instead of my own (I promise I’m not her agent or marketing person), I just really think you’d love her book!

    Cheers!

  6. Melkorka says...

    I have been stewing over a comment on this blog all week. The one in which a reader admonished you on ‘oversharing’ about your children. It REALLY irritated me.
    When are we going to culturally realize that admonishing women publicly (and by admonishing; I mean taking a judgmental and condescending tone to ‘splain’ what we think another did wrong) – is part of our deep rooted misogyny? There is nothing more natural than a writer or any other artist for that matter tackling subject matter that they know. My mother painted me, as did my grandmother – there was nothing embarrassing about it. Contrary to it feeling embarrassing – I felt and do feel grateful that my likeness got to be included in their impressive bodies of work. How would you go about discussing parenting on a personal writing blog WITHOUT mentioning your own parenting experiences anyways??? And waste issues aside, there is nothing inherently shameful about playing with a tampon – just the humor in the absurdity of an item being surprisingly refashioned for a different use by a child.
    I didn’t reply to the original commenter because I don’t believe in public shaming – but I really think it behooves us to examine WHY some of us (women included) think that women’s artistic choices, dress, actions, vocal style, parenting choices, etc… are so ripe for public critique. Women are not children, we don’t ‘need’ to be schooled on why you don’t agree with our choices. Disagreements and dialogue are good of course – but the tone of the comment was definitely ‘instructive’ and ‘correcting’, not reflective or attempting to open up a constructive dialogue.
    I can see how some might see my own comment as hypocritical (me critiquing another woman’s critique). I hope that my comment is viewed in the light I meant it, as to ask WHY do we instinctually as a society think we should be instructing and correcting women on their professional work, and personal choices when they were not asking for approval? It just so reflects our cultural status as women that we are expected to gracefully and gratefully accept admonishment from strangers in every sphere of our lives.

    • Sigh. Sorry to have caused you so much angst over my comment which came from genuine concern for two kids I don’t know and who live thousands of miles from me. I wasn’t shaming Joanna, I was just trying to offer a different point of view. That’ll learn me.

  7. Angela says...

    Tampons! So true. I’m thinking Santa might be dropping off a whole box this year. Kids will be beside themselves.

  8. Archana says...

    I always tell me daughter that only boring people get bored and almost immediately shes trying to find something else to do!

    • Nina says...

      My grandpa used to say that! And when you really think about it, it’s true.

  9. Steph says...

    Bottle caps! We always throw our beer bottle caps into an big ol’ jar on the island in the kitchen, and one evening I found my 2 and 3 year old had dumped it out and started sorting and stacking and trading different ones! It’s now my go to:)

    • Oh my goodness mine have done this too – during a big cookout they started walking around offering people beers just so they could collect the caps! :-)

  10. This was great to read. My littles also discovered my tampons one day. They had so much fun putting the plastic covers over their little fingertips and playing finger puppets. I ended up getting a marker and drawing faces on them, so funny!

  11. Jane says...

    Thanks so much for this post! This is the thing I’m struggling with the most with my almost 3 year old. Love your ideas and am definitely going to read through all the comments for more! (My daughter loved pads! She thought they were like cool grown-up stickers. She got into them once and proudly stuck them on the middle of her shirt and didn’t want to take them off. ) Some things that hold her interest the most are play dough, Tegu blocks, and most recently a “superhero” cape.

  12. Elizabeth says...

    I LOVED this post. Thanks Jo! So inspiring.

  13. Chelsey says...

    Great post and lovely comments! So many great ideas. I’m off to build an inventors box for my son. I think I’ll have to throw in a few tamponds too! Just as a special treat ;)

  14. I bought a huge $5 bag of rice the other day. Set out a blanket and a muffin tin. Provided scoopers (tablespoons) and small toys. My 3 yr old and 18 month old had to bury everything with rice. (Copied that idea from Busy Toddler). Next, I took a deep clear plastic bowl and I hid all kids of toys in the rice and they had to dig it out. This was the 3 yr olds favorite. It can get messy, but it’s not too bad. You can dump the rice from the blanket back in your rice container, then just vacuum the rest. The 3 yr old loved finding toys I should hide too. He asks to play every day now!

  15. Kristian says...

    As a teacher one of the best additions to my classroom has been two open “makerspace” shelves. They are full of supplies. Some are legos and knex and other blocks, but a lot are also just random craft supplies and it is so interesting how in free time, students gravitate to just…. tinkering making little bits and bobs. Half the time I’ve no clue what it was or was meant to be, if it was meant to be anything. But the experiementing and enjoying of items I think goes a long way.

    From what I can tell too, at home, all the kids are pretty obsessed with Legos, but your boys may be a few years off from that still….

  16. Ashley says...

    When I was a kid, my parents were very economical with their spending. We didn’t have bath toys, but instead used empty yogurt, sour cream, and margarine containers to continuously pour and empty bath water. One day, my dad injured his back and decided to take a bath which he typically never did. My family always jokes about the time I went running down the hallway shouting that I would go get him the “bath toys.”

    • I still like playing with empty shampoo bottles in the bath. Soon to be 60.

  17. Jen G says...

    My toddler loves the catalogs that have crowded our mailbox in the past couple of months. She has a speech delay, and this activity has given her so much to talk about. She calls them magazines (“mazazine!”). She looks through them while eating a meal, her recent faves being the Hannah Anderson catalog and the AAA magazine, and we talk about everything that peaks her interest – mommies, daddies, boys, girls, babies, jammies (pajamas), dogs, what they’re doing (“everybody sleeping!” and “lady swimming!”), etc. She particularly loves to study and imitate how the models are posing their hands, or their facial expressions, and insists I do it too (“mommy, same!”). We count things on the pages (3 babies, 5 girls, etc) and identify designs/appliques on clothing – snowman, ballerina, truck. We even lucked out with a World Wildlife Fund catalog, and we identify as many animals as we can.

    • Kelly says...

      This is so sweet…and made me tear up. What a sweet girl

  18. kids really do find the oddest things amusing.
    box, the pop out type of measuring spoons, pom pom balls are all hits in our house..

  19. Jessie says...

    Thank you so much for the bus and airplane idea. I just ordered them for my 2.5 year old. I needed a couple of extra gifts for her. I really like that they are wood. It’s nice to hear that your son has played with it for so long! I also bought one of my daughters the ukulele you recommended. That and a guitar for my older one and a drum for my youngest there should be some good jam sessions. I also read too that if you buy wooden toys their imaginations take over and they use them for all different things.

  20. Emily says...

    My son is nine. He and a trusted friend love nothing more than going to our neighborhood park together and playing in the woods. My fondest childhood memories involve playing in the woods or outside without adults present and I feel children today don’t get to do that. Next up for him is walking the short walk into our small town center with a few dollars in his pocket for hot chocolate and something small at the art store. He also enjoys making things in his dad’s workshop (that’s supervised–but his schematics he creates on his own). Children who are given the freedom to play this way I feel are imaginative and ultimately, I hope, self reliant. My child is not interested in video games and less reliant on electronics than many of his peers and I credit it to us encouraging him to find way to amuse himself from a very young age. So smart do do this!

  21. Kim L. says...

    Omg the tampons! Lol – amazing!! Reminds of the time I was babysitting for my neighbors and the littlest girl (who was potty training at the time) walked over to her little potty, sat down, and pulled a tampon out of the box next to the toilet, which she held onto with her teeny fist for the whole duration of her potty break. I was in stitches and totally baffled, until I realized she was mimicking her Mom, and thought that holding tampon was a necessary component of this whole new world of peeing on a toilet – lol!

    • JT says...

      That’s amazing. haha

    • Natalie says...

      My son also loves tampons – those can be an expensive toy, he can go through a box when I don’t notice and then It’s the worst when I realize my supply is gone! Thanks for the post – good reminder to clean out the toy room, less is more!

    • Julie says...

      My daughter (16 months) also loves pulling tampons out of their box and running around the house with them. And I have a very distinct memory of finding the most amazing, self-adhesive slippers under my mom’s bathroom sink when I was about 4 – I put her pads to good use. 🙂

  22. Cindy says...

    When my sister and I were little (in the 70’s….) my mom would clean the fridge and we would play grocery store with everything she took out of the fridge — she would put all of it on the kitchen table and we would go to town organizing and putting what we needed “at home” in our brown grocery bags then checking out with monopoly money. Those afternoons were my favorite! Thanks, Mom!!

  23. Magnets and fabric scraps are a hit in our house. And when we’re visiting my mom, my daughter and her cousins make a beeline for Grandma’s closet, where old fashioned silk slips turn into witch’s capes!

  24. Cazmina says...

    I remember my cries of “I’m bored!” were responded to with “well, there’s a whole bookshelf full of books over there, why don’t you go read something?” Especially when my older siblings reached an age where they were too cool to play with me, I had to entertain myself.

    P.S I totally don’t get the few negative comments about the tampons! They’re just bits of cotton and plastic! And kids are fascinated by adult toiletries. I remember I used to mimic my dad when he was shaving – I would cover my face in shaving cream and “shave” my face with my index finger, making sure to copy all of his funny expressions.

  25. CK says...

    Stand-bys for my 18 month old, when I need to get something done/cook:

    – Our tea box: taking out the bags, putting them back in;
    – Lazy Susan spice rack with only the spices in the plastic jars;
    – Our wooden bottle-drying tree: all the nipples, tops, bottles, straws, etc get explored;
    – our mini-safe: trying to unlock/lock it.

    • Anna says...

      Mini lock boxes are the best – my 6 year old got three for his birthday – he carries around a key chain with all the keys – its a way for them to feel safe and important I think!

  26. I’m a long-time follower but I get very worried when you reveal such intimate details about the boys. The part about Anton playing with tampons will be on the internet forever. How will he feel when one of his friends discovers this and decides to tell everyone at school when he’s 16? I know you like to share their adventures with us but some respect for their (future) privacy would not be a bad thing.

    • Jennifer says...

      If you have a problem with a toddler playing with a tampon then that is exactly that… YOUR problem. A tampon is literally plastic and cotton. If you have any negative associations with tampons then you have some internalized misogyny to unpack. He’s a kid. He’s a kid that literally came out of another body via a vagina. Get over yourself.

    • Ha! I doubt any of these kids growing up in this generation will be embarrassed by ANYTHING on the internet in their future! ;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your feedback, jody! i definitely think long and hard about what small daily moments i share about the boys, and of course 99.9999999% of their lives are not shared on the site. i think this anecdote is really harmless, and i hear you that you feel otherwise; i appreciate your thoughts. it’s such a personal decision for each parent to decide about his/her own children in terms of social media, and it’s a very interesting and ongoing discussion. thank you so much for your feedback!

    • Thanks Joanna. No offence intended.

      To ‘Jennifer’, I think you miss my point. I was talking about maintaining the privacy of two children, not tampons or vaginas. And I have no misogyny. I myself have a vagina. And I don’t mind toddlers playing with tampons, my concern related to it being blasted all over the internet. Calm down.

  27. Hannah says...

    I remember my younger brother, when he was really little, discovering one of my mom’s tampons and having a blast playing with it and his boats in the sink! It was like a torpedo! My mom, being the awesome person she is, didn’t say a word :)

  28. Bridey says...

    I cracked up reading about Anton and the tampons! My 3 year old son has also used them as “pipes” to load up on the back of trucks :)

  29. jj says...

    We LOVE Fort Magic!! Our kids ages 7, 6, 4, and 2 got it last year for Christmas from the grandparents and play with so much we just bought another box. It is pricey but they do SO much with it, not just forts. They make swords, skis, tents, movie screens, doll carriages, airplanes, ships, fishing poles, snorkel, the possibilities are endless!! The best part is that only some of those come with guidance from us, the rest they have made on their own.

  30. Alina says...

    We have a toddler who is very into imaginative play. I always leave little scenes in his play areas for him to discover – like an old toy “hiding” in a basket or his Mickey driving the truck or a Batman in his shoe. He loves playing with the blender (all dangerous parts removed of course) and boxes of all kinds, especially the box his butt paste comes in :) tampons will probably be next

  31. Seriously, feminine products are a gold mine for encouraging free form play. My mother, after 32 years, still trots out the story of a toddler me using panty liners stuck to my feet as “slippers” around the house. Evidently they were good for dry mopping the floor too, because you know that toddlers cover every square inch of floor space during their frenzied explorations!

    • Love this LOL My daughter stuck them all around the toilet seat to “make it soft”. If it entertains them, I will let them play with just about anything!

  32. Lisa says...

    One thing you can do is to introduce kids to a “secret mission” – let them know there is a secret mission going to happen in a few weeks time, and you that you need helpers, but they need to go through spy training first! The spy training obviously takes time and needs to be done over the few weeks, it can be stuff like finding a huge key (you know the old school ones) that you have hidden somewhere, to learn to identify 5 different plants outside, collect rocks, learn about something (stars, dinosaurs, other animals, or other random activity. They need to practice balancing, or not touching the floor, and if you want you can pull red string (yarn) back and forth in a room so it looks like laser beams, and they have to cross the room without touching the string. Once they have passed their spy school, you’ll reward them with their own spy box (shoe box that they have to decorate themselves as one of the tasks) where they can keep their magnifying glass, flash light, pencils and notebooks, and other bits and pieces. Give them spy glasses or spy hats or something that you all wear, and make a big deal of how special they are ;) for the big “spy mission” you can do different things depending on where you live and so on; find clues that brings you around town/the neighbourhood and once you get there they need to perform a task to unlock the next clue. (Climb the monkey bars, ring on a door bell and say the password to get the clue, find the specific animal in the museum, run between certain trees in a park, score 10 goals in soccer etc) make stops for ice cream or other treats to make it even more fancy if you wish. Grand finale can be finding a huge box of stuff to build a robot, name the robot and place him outside for the “spy leaders” to collect him. Once he has been secretly collected overnight, make them leave a letter thanking the kids for their valuable help and that the mission would not have been possible without them. Give them a trophy or similar to finish off (you can order cheap ones online!) I’ll guarantee it’s a hit!

    • Wow! That’s a great idea :) Might be useful next week when I’m off for the holidays!

    • Jane says...

      I love this idea. I would be careful with the “secrets” language. We talk about surprises rather than secrets in our house because surprises are revealed while secrets tend to stay secret. This is something I discovered while researching on how to talk to my toddler and preschooler about good touch/bad touch. The idea is that someone who asks my kid to keep a secret probably isn’t going to mean well.

    • Lisa says...

      Hi Jane! Thanks for your input about the word “secret” – English is not my first language so I didn’t make the connection until you pointed it out, thank you! I will have that in mind when speaking to children (in English!) in the future :)

  33. Ali says...

    My FAVOURITE game growing up was to get the junk mail and sort it out into various competitors (i.e. department store, supermarket etc). I would then give one half to my sister and we could spend the whole afternoon ‘calling’ each other to price check various items…..

  34. Johanna says...

    Thank you Joanna! These are great tips and perfectly timed for me, as your posts so often are. Looking forward to scrolling up to read the comments as I’m sure there are so many more great ideas there!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      these comments are so amazing, i’ve been screen-capturing so many of them! :)

  35. oh, also: I found that rotating toys is THE BEST way to manage kids/toys! I just do it every month or so when I think about it and it’s like Christmas morning (I don’t tell the kids I’m doing it) when they discover forgotten toys. I like to keep as few toys as possible in our city house.

  36. Jessica Brown says...

    The comment about tampons are AMAZING!

  37. Thank you for such a helpful, simple post!! One of my friends who homeschools her 4 kids refers to “strewing” where she puts reading material that she thinks her kids will be interested in and that she wants them to read in key places around the house. I have found this to be super effective if I don’t say anything about it – in fact, my kids have never heard the term from me. I go to the library and just wander the nonfiction stacks in the kids’ section and pick up all kinds of books.

  38. Laura says...

    Tampons as a special treat! I can’t stop laughing.

  39. Amelia says...

    empty tissue boxes and twine were always hits for me when i was little. also empty toilet paper rolls. :)

  40. Tunie says...

    Gosh, my mother would just lock us outside to play … we were not allowed back in til dinner, haha, unless one of us was bleeding. Not even disputes would get her to let us back in – she directed us to find a way to settle them ourselves. I emerged an extreme nature lover with a gift for mediation and diplomatic conflict resolution : )

    • Your comment made me laugh out loud and also feel nostalgic for a very similar childhood :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is awesome, tunie :)

  41. Mila says...

    We love blue painters tape. It’s easy for my 3.5 year old to tear by herself. It’s just sticky enough for her to “wrap presents”, build a wand, tape up a drawing or any other use. But it also easily peels off all the things you would prefer where not covered in tape.

  42. Lucy says...

    That same wooden school bus has been a favorite in our house, too, for 5 years and counting!

  43. Meghan says...

    Joanna, you’re just so relatable. I love this post. You are such an admirable mother and I appreciate your simplicity and honesty. My son has definitely sorted and stacked tampons in a box before! LOL

  44. Hillary says...

    My favorites as a kid were the dress-up basket (I remember once being a Pocahontus inspired ninja) and I loved using old wrapping paper tubes and other random things to make marble runs that would go the length of the house. I actually really miss that. Maybe I’ll keep the all the wrapping paper tubes after Christmas for some playtime of my own….

  45. Emma says...

    The best toy my sister and I ever got was (drumroll)…about 300 empty egg cartons. Hear me out! They make the absolute best building blocks; you can make human-sized structures quickly with no fear of injury, when open they nest for easier storage, and they cost basically nothing+patience. My mother’s family somehow started doing this when she was a child and had a massive collection. Her brothers would make fully enclosed igloos with connecting tunnels that you could crawl into and stand up in. We saved egg cartons for years and had our friends collect them for us, and it was worth it. Afternoons upon afternoons of entertainment!

    • Johanna says...

      Amazing! I live in a tiny apartment but am going to pass this idea along to the kindergarten teachers at work!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this idea!

    • Starlene says...

      We played with egg cartons as well! We would cut the Styrofoam type up into individual cups, use a hold puncher and “sew” them together into different designs and patterns with yarn. Seriously hours of fun!

  46. The tampon idea is hysterical! I’m totally going to try it with my two-year-old!

  47. Celeste says...

    My mom used to do this with our “adventure backpack.” Inside was: magnifying glasses, pencils, gummy erasers (so fancy!), water colors, notebooks, flower identifying books, bug books, and a flashlight. She’d hand it to us and we would go nuts. It was legitimately my favorite thing when she would bring it out. Love this post!

    • June2 says...

      This! Such a great “auntie” gift, thanks!

  48. Janine says...

    Great post Joanna! Im stealing all these ideas for my kids. So awesome

  49. Britt says...

    I am 23 and still enormously greatful for the gigantic dress-up box we have at our home. It has provided me and my siblings with sooo much outfits throughout the years. The key is to put in clothes that you actually wore! Example: one of my moms grey, sparkly dresses which she wore in her thirties has served as: elephant suit, magician dress, scary skull cape, maharadja outfit, mouse fur,… (I can go on for ages). The most brilliant thing is that some stuff in there actually comes back into fashion. Then i’m like ’heeey, that army shirt that I wore a million times as a kid actually looks perfect in combination with those mom -jeans!’ *pulling it out the box*
    Yup, that box (okay, boxes) is the one thing my parents will never be allowed to throw away.

  50. Colleen S. says...

    My mom used to give my sisters and I the leftover deposit slips from her checkbook and we’d pretend to have bank accounts.

  51. Michelle says...

    I once went to my son’s room to say goodnight to him. He had a book on his bedside table with a tampon hanging out of it (string in, white part out). I was horrified (he has never played with them or seen them as far as I knew and I was not up for a discussion with an 8 year old boy) and tried to hide it of course. So I calmly asked, “What isssss that?” and he said, “I found them in the basket in the bathroom. They are ghost bookmarks. Pretty cool.”

    • Adrienne says...

      ‘Ghost bookmarks’ for the win….. Holy cow, that’s just the funniest, cutest thing I’ve heard in a while ♥️♥️♥️

    • HAHAHAHA! This is the best! I just cracked up at this, “ghost bookmarks” – I love it :)

    • Cindy says...

      CUTEST.THING.EVER!!! I am so looking at tampons in a new light now….

    • I laughed out loud at this. Funniest thing I’ve read in a while!

  52. Janey says...

    My boys adore playing with water beads – they are known as magic beans in our house – they expand in water and are all pretty colours, squishy but not messy. They also love silicone sand. Middle son went through a phase of collecting rocks and sticks which he used to create ‘worlds’ for his dinosaurs :-)

  53. Heather says...

    I love this. My mom spent a lot of time in the kitchen, not even cooking necessarily, just on the phone, working, etc. So she gave me my own drawer, one at my height, full of things I could play with like a rolling pin, cookie cutters, measuring spoons. I thought it was so cool to have my own space within her adult space.

    • Azlin says...

      Heather, I did that for my boy when he was a toddler/preschooler! He had a lower cabinet/cupboard in the kitchen all for him. Filled it with measuring cups, spoons, plates and more cups. That was the only unlocked lower cabinet then. He had so much fun playing with it. It was so sweet seeing him playing with them 😍

    • Meredith says...

      This is an awesome idea! Definitely putting this together for my curious and busy two year old twins!

  54. Sandra says...

    Beautiful photograph!

  55. Ann M says...

    disclaimer: I am a preschool teacher! But I also was a mom to young girls once upon a time… I save empty spice containers and an egg carton and add some real measuring spoons and cups and kids pretend bake. Or save junk mail for a few weeks and they can be mail carriers. Or save a few food containers and add some money or a used up gift card (credit card) and they can play store. My students seem to enjoy real props as much as the cute plastic toys we have in our classroom. I also recommend rotating your toys. Put a few things away in a closet and when you bring them out again they are like new toys! I agree totally that kids need quiet explorative time undirected by adults!!

  56. Lacy says...

    One year for Christmas I created an “Inventor’s Box.” It had pipe cleaners and cardboard inserts from packing material and those square packing balloons. It also had clothes pins and a big roll of masking tape. I think it also included some clean plastic containers from leftover dinners. My boys loved creating robots and rocket ships, whatever else they could think of. My husband jokingly called it their box of trash. ;-) We find things now and the boys will say, that’ll be good for the Inventor’s Box.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so clever, lacy!

    • Charlotte says...

      My brother had something very similar growing up; I remember always going into his room to see what he had added to his collection. It had pipe cleaners (which were fascinating outside of art class) and it had plastic straws in paper holders (like you would get at a fast food joint). Whenever we wanted our juice to feel “special”, we would get one of those straws because it felt like we were at a restaurant. There was something so cool about seeing things that we had thought were found specifically only at school or a deli, in our home. Thank you for bringing up this memory!

    • debbie says...

      We had an inventors box as well. My best friend and I would put all of our recycle stuff…cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, wrapping paper tubes, foil, plastic containers from Trader Joes meals, etc. into a big tub along with “connectors” (different kinds of tape, zip ties, twisty wires from bread bags, etc.). When our kids would get together they made the most creative inventions. They would spend hours building things jointly or together. We also had a dress up box at each of our houses (I have a son, she has 2 girls). I loved the costumes they’d create, like knights in cheerleader costume or Jedi’s in stripes knee socks, and the performances that would go with them. Childhood magic!! You can’t ever get those times again!

  57. There is something about tampons! Our daughter likes them too! But she’s 2, so she’s mainly interested in how many different colors the plastic applicators come in. And she likes telling me that she “needs a tampon.” Oh goodness! Haha!

  58. Great post! I’m always intrigued at the random things my nieces will play with. They love blocks, so I will give them only 5-6 at a time and they can be entertained for awhile. One time while eating a snack, one of my nieces started playing with orange peels.
    The imagination of a child is truly amazing.

  59. I love this! Thanks so much ideas to spark the imagination of my girls. Since they’re twin, they have their best friend to play with most of the time, however they definitely need alone time and independence.

    XOXO, Amy @ Jeans and a Tea
    http://www.jeansandatea.com

  60. Mairéad says...

    My son’s montessori nursery always has tables set up with various activities every morning (changes every day) and it is lovely to see the children gravitate towards something that interests them. Puzzles, counting toys, sand, trains etc. Without that, I am sure my son would spend the full 3 hours crawling around being a saber-toothed tiger instead!
    Masking tape is great – I cover the living room floor with it, lots of ‘roads’ going in different directions – then leave a couple of cars and fire engines on it and watch to see what happens when my 3 little people walk in and discover it.

  61. Brooke says...

    Excellent post! Yes, a small stack of something set out just for them will often trigger great fun! I’ve had luck with –
    Dominoes
    “Trash” from the kitchen (do you want this old cereal box? you DO?!)
    Any little treasures I happen to find while cleaning up (one old earring, a marble)
    Sometimes I’ll even let them do a bit of experimental cooking. My 10 y/o likes to invent her own smoothies. And potions!

    • Anna says...

      Omg! Potions haha I love it!

    • Ceciel says...

      Potions are the best! A friend moved and gave us tons of old spices so the kids create cinnamon, flour, water, thyme, nutmeg potions (or mixes). It’s messy but not awful and once or twice they’ve even cooked it up.

    • Taylor says...

      This just reminded me of the experimental baking we used to do with my mom. Every once in a while she would let us make cookies out of whatever ingredients we wanted. I remember making peanut butter and potato chip cookies that were especially delicious :) Half the fun was getting to make a mess with a normally very orderly mom

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That actually sounds really delicious :)

    • JT says...

      Oh god. My sister and I played Potions but with mixing things like dad’s shaving cream, cologne, perfume of my mother’s toothpaste, basically anything we found in the bathroom and anything in the kitchen. We didn’t do anything with our potions after. Just wanted see them mixed together in a bottle. We thought that was the coolest thing.

  62. Laura says...

    Ahaha I’m dying! The tampon as a special treat! Such a good one!

  63. Katie says...

    Loved the tampon part. Ahahaha!

  64. We have 6 kids and no TV, so getting kids to play on their own is a total MUST! :-) My favorite strategy is to play WITH them for 15-30 minutes (no phone, no other distractions–just focused on them!), and then leave. They’ve gotten their fill of “mom” time so they keep on playing happily by themselves, plus for littler kids I’ve modeled “how” to play with whatever it is that we have out at the moment. Seriously works so well. :-)

    And for toys–our favorites here–these are all the tried and true ones that my kids REALLY love and spend hours playing with. Totally worth the investment!

    http://theirchronicles.blogspot.com/2016/11/christmas-gift-ideas.html

  65. Rebecca says...

    Whenever my boys (7, 11, 15 & 16) tell me they’re bored I invite them to help me tackle the never ending list of to-do’s around the house. Sometimes they take me up on the invitation, but usually they are suddenly “too busy” to clean out the garage, etc. Makes me giggle because it works every. single. time.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahha, that’s awesome :)

  66. Raphi says...

    These blocks stand out from my own childhood in a house full of four kids’ worth of toys and games – we LOVED these, and built with them non-stop. The size and shape are perfect; the wood is pine from France. I remember being so inspired by the man on the box focusing so carefully on his creation. I suggest the box of 200, which made us feel like we could build anything!

    http://www.kaplaus.com/
    https://www.amazon.com/Blocks-Natural-Unfinished-Planks-Storage/dp/B0007KLH1Y

    • I second this! We’ve got the Citiblocs (same idea, but slightly less $). We have 300 of them, and are considering getting more. Our kids love these things, and they’ve played with them for years. I think they’re ideal for kids 6 & up.

  67. Alison says...

    My young son got into my tampon drawer one day and discovered the joy of popping the tampon out of the cardboard tubes. From then on he called them ” rocket launchers”, and if he was a good boy I’d tear the wrapper off of one, and it would keep him happy for an hour : )

  68. Julie says...

    I used to read a lot of books. That was the ultimate reliever of boredom in our family. :)

  69. Laura says...

    Joanna – have you seen those towels that come in the tiniest of packages and the towels expand once immersed in water? As it expands, you get to work out what image is on the towel. Seems like it would be a fun activity for your son!

  70. I don’t have kids of my own yet, but my parents definitely followed the “Go play & good luck” mantra of playtime. I think I had to become creative because of the lack of direction, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a parenting style ; )

    http://hyggewellness.com

  71. Sara G. says...

    I don’t have any kids of my own as of yet, but I do remember my childhood very fondly and keeping myself entertained sans television/electronics. When I was much younger, seeing all my mom’s weird kitchen gadgets was always so enthralling (I was particularly fond of our collapsible metal steamer that looked like a UFO and the whisk – haha) and setting up pots and pans as an impromptu drum kit, or using a broom as a pretend microphone – always under the pretext that I had to put everything back where I found it (which luckily was a ground-level cabinet in the kitchen). I also was so excited to get a composition notebook just like Harriet the Spy’s and I would crawl and crouch around the house and our yard “spying” on my family and writing down my observations. My dad also had this giant LL Bean canvas tote bag that I inexplicably liked to sit in (same with plastic laundry bins – it’s very exciting to be small enough to fit in one of those).

    I think it’s healthy doses of imagination, wonder, curiosity as well as being in an environment where that was encouraged and supported – both in my parents’ actions/words and by the fact that there really wasn’t much in the house that was “off limits” per se, just as long as everything was cleaned up and put back afterwards.

  72. Jessica says...

    My 11 month old LOVES playing with my box of tampons also with my birth control pill pack…I’m sure I’m giving him a complex. ;)

  73. Kate says...

    The two best toys my mother gave me were a filled craft box and a ton of dress up clothes. Neither cost very much money, but gave me (and her) hours and hours of creative play.

    My craft box had some specially bought things- pom poms and pipe cleaners- but it was a lot of recycled, cast off things too. Paper towel tubes and egg cartons, scrap fabric, extra buttons. She was just smart enough to put it all in one place for me!

    My dress up box was insane and the envy of my friend group. Instead of buying the expensive, hot pink princess-y dress up clothes from the toy store, she collected bridesmaids dresses. My aunts were more than happy to give me there powder blue, ruffled 80s dresses. And their dyed to match high heels! I thought I was the fanciest kid in town! I also inherited all the old costume jewelry in the family for my dress up box. My girl cousins ages line up magically well. Once I started to lose interest in dressing up, my next girl cousin was just starting to become interested. I think that box made it through 4 or 5 cousins!

  74. Lindsey says...

    We struggle with this so much with our 4-year-old, who has NEVER ONCE WANDERED OFF TO GO PLAY. (Of her own volition, that is.) She is an extrovert to the nth degree and wants to chat and play together all day long. But we really believe learning to play on her own is a gift that will continue to serve her well throughout her life–I long for her to enjoy the gift of a long walk by herself or even traveling alone.

    To that end, I’m constantly reworking her playroom so that things are 1. More magical-seeming (Target has the best paper lanterns and sweet banners for such a mission.) and 2. To make it simpler. I’m forever throwing out toys that lose their appeal after six minutes and bringing in things that serve as a foundation for her imagination.

    • Lindsey says...

      Oh, and my tried-and-true is a bubble bath with “special” toys–containers from my Tupperware cabinet.

  75. That playing-with-tampons story is just awesome!

    <3

  76. Whitney says...

    For our family it’s all about placement: Legos are in a cloth bin at the bottom shelf (always in view); crayons, markers, paper, stickers are all easily accessible for little artists; and we turned the small closet in our kids’ shared bedroom into a library full of their books. It seems when toys and materials are easily accessible, kids are more likely to help themselves and get creative.

  77. We love open-ended toys and keep like with like in a few baskets throughout the house. One of the toys the boys (age 3 and 5) play with most lately is this basket of rocks that they’ve been collecting from a nearby neighbour’s garden (with the neighbour’s permission!). They have some round river rock and some small pebbles and lots of sliced marble pieces and they use them to build structures or fences and last week my youngest son used them to build a baby friendly hospital and laid out some penguins and eggs from a board game on each of the rock ‘beds’. It was right in the middle of the hallway and I almost tripped over it five times that day, but it was the most precious thing!

    We’ve also recently purchased some silk scarves from Dharma Trading Co. and are going to make a project of naturally dyeing them so they’ll have some dress up play and can make scenes for their toys to play in.

  78. Jade says...

    As a child there were 2 things that occupied years and years of my time-( and have instilled in me habits that I still have & love) the first is what my parents called a ‘Busy Box’ (I always thought it was because the box was overflowing- in hindsight I realise it was aptly named) – they gave both my twin brother and I a shoe box and all sorts of craft supplies- craft paper, Crayons, Paints to my glee- GLITTER and told us to decorate them. They then filled them up with the said craft supplies and whenever we would complain of being bored (and couldn’t get outside) they would say- what can you make from your busy box? Or sometimes would have a more specific request- to make a Santa hat or Christmas card for our favourite neighbour say. As we grew up the materials changed from crayons to markers to rulers and protractors but we both still has them well into high school. They become tool boxes for school and learning but by including more abstract things like pipe cleaners, balloons, felt, feathers, stickers & stamps (and tin foil by the sounds) my parents encouraged imaginative play in a way that always felt like an adventure and by Christmas time would have a great list of stocking stuffers.
    The second thing was my best friends dress up box. Ours didn’t have the cool kid costumes you can buy today- it was literally a pile of my her mum’s old work clothes, dance costumes and most importantly accessories- we spent hours and hours dressing up , adventuring and putting on our own concerts/ dance parties to Barry White or Michael Jackson.

  79. Joanna! Such a great post! As a former nanny, art teacher (under the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy), and kindergarten teacher, I applaud these tips and tricks. And, really, the curiosities that come of them unfold into expansive learning; potentially on multi levels. Thank you for sharing these. I bet you’ve just rescued many a child (and parent/caregiver) from future meltdowns :)

  80. Klara says...

    A bit similar to the tampon effect: I once handed a 5 year old a set of soft ear plugs (the ones you can squeeze together and when they fill up with air the expand again): he was busy with them for at least 30 minutes! (And can be re-used, which will save you a lot of tampons and money ;o))

  81. Melissa says...

    I spent MANY HOURS as a kid playing with pipe cleaners. We used to form them into very basic animal shapes, and then used our winter jackets as “caves” for the animals to live in. It doesn’t take much, lol.

  82. Clothilde says...

    I have been advised to create a “treasure basket” for my 6-month baby for her to start playing on her own. It is a basket full of random stuff: large key, wooden piece, piece of fabric… Of different size and texture. Google it, internet gives you idea of what to put in a treasure basket. It is totally safe and she loves searching into the basket and usually throwing things out.

    Ps: how was your party at the Obama’s ?

  83. Emma says...

    This post reminded me that when my siblings and I were little and told my mom we were bored she would always ask, “Do you need a job to do?” That always got us playing faster than anything else!

    My mom would discard any old kitchen items (pots, pans, graters, sifters, wooden spoons, spice containers, etc.) into a bucket in our backyard whenever they were too old to use in the kitchen. My sister and I loved that so much! There is something about getting to play with items that were never marketed or designated as toys that is so exciting as a child. We would gather (religiously) plants from all around our neighborhood and sift dirt for hours to make “flour” and set up a whole outdoor kitchen. We called it “cook show” and would narrate the things we made like a Food Network show. I always appreciated my mom never being worried about us messing up the plants in our yard or digging holes for dirt. She was just super excited and supportive of our play. She made us feel proud of the things we created.

  84. Michelle says...

    Pom poms! They can be sorted, are soft, come in cheerful colors and different sizes, and they are good stand-ins for a number of things (play food, animals, currency, marbles, etc…). That and a set of wooden blocks or some other open-ended building based toy is great. I like toys by quercetti (especially the “tubation” and gears).

  85. Meghan says...

    I haven’t had a chance to read through all the comments so I’m sorry if this is a repeat. I love this post and I have two young boys, 2&4. They love to make things. I was thinking a great Christmas present would be to fill a few shoe boxes with themes of “kits”. I actually got the idea for your gift guide for kids with the spy kit. Does anyone have any ideas of what has worked for their kids!? Maybe duct tape, a flashlight, string? Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      fun idea!!! masking tape could be good for this, too, since duct tape can be harder for little kids to peel etc.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      PS and maybe wool instead of string, since it’s soft and thick!

    • Jo says...

      What about a ‘kit’ to make a dinosaur garden? It could include a small tray, – or they could use the base of the box – little toy dinosaurs, gravel, different sized stones, clay, foil (for a lake), lollipop sticks (for bridges or fences). You can go outside and trim bits of trees / hedges to make miniature ones for the dinosaurs to shelter under. You could do a similar kit for a building site with little diggers or cars, zip lock bags of sand / mud / gravel and strips of cardboard with lines drawn down the middle that they could arrange as ‘roads’.
      Or a kit to make a knight’s shield – different cardboard ‘shield’ shapes, tin foil, coloured paper, a glue stick, an empty cake tin (a small individual sized one to stick on in the middle), bit of rope and tape (for handle), pens or crayons, simple cardboard shapes to draw round so they can do their own designs on the shield, etc.
      Or even a baking kit (if you and they like baking), with all the ingredients already measured in ziplock bags. You could put in small wooden spoons, a cookie cutter each that you know they’ll love, then, stuff to decorate (little sweeties or sprinkles) and a tube of icing. You could also include a paper plate and a napkin so when they have baked, they can present everything in a lovely way and maybe invite someone over for tea!
      A friend of mine does these ‘Fairy Boxes’ with water beads, wand making kit, fairy garland headdress, potion bottles, etc. I think my boys would like these too!
      I’m thinking I might actually start a kit company! Hope something here speaks to you. My boys (4 and 7) love this kind of stuff.

    • Vicki says...

      Yours are kind of little, but have you seen “build your own tent kits”? You put in some old sheets, big clips and clamps, a roll of heavy twine/laundry string, flashlights, everything you need to build a blanket fort in the living room!
      My kids have loved PlayDoh since I forced myself to stop being neurotic about Not Mixing the Colors! Now we have made a few tubs of brown-grey, but it’s so inexpensive to buy the new beautiful colors with that perfect cylindrical portion of dough inside!

    • Jane says...

      How about a magnifying glass, some kind of disguise (hat, sunglasses etc), a notebook to draw the ‘suspect’, and neighbourhood map, a compass, a night walk to look for things in the dark is always fun. All can be scaled to suit little and bigger kids. Even just hunting for bugs in the garden or park using a picture style checklist of things to find is good.

    • Loesie says...

      Washi tape, a magnifying glass…Uhmmm…

    • Here are my suggestions for your little spies: A special belt with pockets in it, like a little utility belt. A small container to go in the pocket (like an old film canister or altoids box), for collecting evidence. A magnifying glass. Some sort of “disguise” like a hat or fake moustache. Add those to your flashlight, string, and masking tape, and you’ll have a great spy kit. Once they are spies, you can have them make their own “binoculars” by taping two small cardboard tubes together. Be sure to make two!

    • Ceciel says...

      My 4 1/2 year old son made a “trap” using a 3-4 ft piece of rope, tape measure and a random clip (for a bag of veggies or chips). He loves washi tape and will wrap his cars in it. Empty Talenti/Ciao Bello containers. My two year old likes the colander a lot. And regular grown up pencils. Stickers! Clothespins!

    • MA says...

      Meghan – I’m such a big fan of giving “kits”. When my son was 7, we (or Santa?) gave him a “spy” kit that consisted of metal briefcase (we got it off of Amazon for cheap – I really wanted to get a used one at the thrift store but I ran out of time!), a pair of eyeglass frames from my father-in-law who is an optician, fake mustaches, a used suit jacket and fedora. Three plus years later, this kit is still super popular and gets played with all the time. I thought about filling it with “spy” toys, but so glad I didn’t. I think its the potential to fill it or do stuff with it that is so enticing.

  86. Mama M says...

    Oh man, the tampons! My daughter (now 2) discovered a box of tampons about a year ago and has played pretend with the different colors in the multi-pack every chance she gets–with one color as a mama, one a dada, one a baby. I hadn’t even thought to let her take one out of the package. A whole new world is about to open up…

    Thanks for the always-creative and ever useful parenting tips!

  87. Samantha says...

    When I taught 1st Grade, hands down, my kids’ FAVORITE time of day of day was something we called “Quiet Time” which was just 10-15 min of free play (generally after an activity where they had to be seated for a long time or when they needed some “chill out” time to calm down after something exciting) and the only rule was that there was no talking. None. At all. They could play with any item in the room that had already been introduced (ex. if we hadn’t learned how to use glue sticks yet that year then those were off limits) and it was amazing to see the things they were drawn to. It taught me SO much about each of them as individuals. Some kids loved to read the whole time and some loved to build with blocks and some loved to go through the recycling bin and make crafts out of the scrap paper. I think having clear direction about which materials were off limits/allowed, plus having the added “challenge” of no talking made it really fun for them. As the year progressed more and more objects would be added, but I think if you were recreating this at home it’d be fun to have a basket of materials/toys that you rotate out and that are only available during this time to make them more enticing.

  88. I love this post! We are currently in the process of purging some toys (although we should probably wait because the grandparents don’t really respect our “one gift” rule) because our kids don’t really play with them! We have some favorites of course…Corrolle dolls get hours and hours of play, and my son plays with his dinosaurs constantly, but all of the big hunks of plastic and stuffed animals sit ignored in a big pile in the corner. The things they play with the most are blankets, paper (computer paper and giant sheets of paper are equally loved), a clipboard (it feels very official!), and two giant Amazon boxes that I pull out when I need to accomplish something. If I throw markers in the boxes my kids will be occupied for hours! Current seasonal favorites, though, are wrapping paper and a branch from the Christmas tree. I gave my daughter scraps of paper left over from wrapping Christmas gifts with some tape and a couple of shoe boxes, and she “wrapped presents” for the longest time, and the tree branch has been on all kinds of adventures!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “a clipboard (it feels very official!)” = so cute :)

    • Lauren E. says...

      The paper brought up lovely memories for me. My dad used to bring home graph paper from work and I’d spend hours drawing floorplans. I have absolutely no idea where I got that from, but that paper was a huge treat!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so sweet!!

  89. Janine says...

    Oh my god, the image of your little one playing with his “magical sponges” has me cracking up.

    I’m a nanny, and although my job entails not leaving children to their own devices, most of the time the little ones tend to entertain themselves and only ask me for assistance/to play the “big sister” or “the giant” in their games.

    No need for a playhouse, as they utilize piles of blankets, quilts, and pillows plus a table (or some space behind the couch) to build forts, caves, and secret hideouts.

    Now that it’s holiday season, ornaments and the pieces of the nativity set have also become popular toys.

    If you have little girls, or (long haired boys!), a basket with hairbrushes, clip-on bows, and “hairspray” (water in a spray bottle) are a fun favorite.

    And, always, ALWAYS, blocks. Mega Bloks, Lego, Duplo, or more likely, those knockoff Jumbo Blocks from Target. They are easily the most popular item in the house.

    The one thing I’d prefer they didn’t play with, but they always seem to want to play with, is the fruit from the fruit bowl. I’ve been informed that the oranges are “the best” for juggling.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound like such a wonderful nanny!

    • Yes! My kids love playing “haircut!” A spray bottle and comb are all they need….just make sure you hide the scissors! Haha.

  90. These are great! As an elementary art teacher, I’m so happy to hear stories of kids engaging in creative play at home. When kids come to the art room, you can see the difference easily between the ones who watch a lot of TV and play video games versus the ones who build, play and imagine at home. A few other favorites– using silly putty to pick up the ink from the newspaper (especially comics) and crayon texture rubbings of coins or fabric. I also wholeheartedly recommend How to Be an Explorer of The World for other imaginative play prompts for kids. So glad to see a post about this! :)

  91. Jess says...

    My grandmother was my primary day time caregiver when I was little. She was worked as a seamstress out of her home (she made wedding gowns… I got to play among fantasy princess dresses in various states of construction all day!). She made me a little work basket with little strips of fabric, lace, yarn, etc and a big bottle of Aleene’s Tacky Glue. I would spend HOURS just pottering around in the basket making little things. I loved it.

    I also loved looking at her photo albums of all of the dresses that she had made for weddings over the years. It was like the best picture book ever!

    • Janine says...

      I love this! I was my grandmother’s sewing companion too.

      I had a little cookie tin (why is it always those blue butter cookie tins?) filled with bits of fabric, sequins and tons of buttons. You just brought back such a great memory!

  92. Lisa Cameron says...

    Tampons! At least they bring joy to someone :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahha

  93. Charlotte K says...

    Tampons are so expensive, I would never let a kid play with them!

    This is what toys and the great outdoors are for. My father never spent one second doing anything to keep me from being bored, and my mother did it only rarely. I loved to read, play with dolls, and build little worlds outside and in from bits of toys & nature. Some of these were solitary and some group activities. My sister 2 years older and I made up our own games constantly, and neighborhood kids came and went as time allowed. But it is different in the city where you can’t just point the kids outdoors. I think my childhood was a little bit like “Our Gang”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes it was definitely a happy accident on his part, haha. he was poking around my bathroom drawers while i was taking a shower! your childhood sounds *wonderful*.

  94. This is great food for thought! It can be tricky to find that balance of “when do I get down and play with you” and “when do I gently encourage you to find your own fun?” We’re still very much figuring this out at my house! Leaving “open ended” types of materials out purposefully seems like a win-win!

    http://www.thewefiles.com

  95. Amy says...

    My mom, who was a teacher and is the best mom ever, was really into items that we used to “build” things. We always had loads of markers, construction paper, glue, building blocks, railroad tracks, etc. We were also allowed to “ruin” our toys with no consequences — most of our Barbies had some very…. interesting…. haircuts, haha! But I was a latch-key kid who can hardly fathom all the supervision kids have these days. Times have changed so much! #oldperson

  96. I find it interesting you mention the 3 bins of random mixed-up toys, because that’s exactly our situation, which I would desperately like to fix! Someday, someday. I will say that my almost 3 year old is really great at playing by himself, it’s happened out of necessity. I pick up him and the baby from daycare, and we have an hour or so before Dad gets home, and I need that time to make dinner. Plus, he doesn’t see me as his playmate, that’s Dad’s role. So, he plays by himself- the mixed up bins of toys don’t seem to stop him! Mostly he loves his hot wheels cars, he lines them up, they have conversations now, etc. He’s learned that Mom needs to make dinner, so he just plays by himself. Plus, he’s been at daycare for 9 hours (I KNOW), with all his classmates and teachers. I firmly believe he needs unstructured quiet time to let his little brain decompress. For awhile there, I was letting him watch tv 1 night a week, but it seems to make him grouchy, so I’ve quit that practice.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “they have conversations now” = be still my heart!!!

      PS TV makes my kids so grouchy, too! and then they’re basically unable to play calmly afterward bc they’re so overstimulated.

    • sarah says...

      My 2.5 year old son’s Matchbox cars also have conversations, as do crayons, paint brushes, and any other toy! It’s so sweet!

    • Emma Bee says...

      Yes to TV making for a grumpy kid! We are strict about no TV because of this – except for long (several hours) car rides and when she’s home sick and I have to work. If she even watches one episode of Daniel Tiger she asks about watching it again for DAYS afterwards. It’s insane.

  97. I’m excited to read all the comments on this one. My son is one and I’m pleasantly surprised how independent he is with play already. However, once he spots my phone, game over! I hope to encourage him out of that mentality as he gets older. :)

  98. Sarah Z says...

    OMG yes the tampons! Why are they such great toddler toys? My almost 2 year old recently discovered mine in a small covered basket I keep in the bathroom. He immediately ran up to me, holding one out, yelling ice pop! Ice pop! I guess he recently enjoyed his first ice pop on a warm day at daycare. I haven’t let him open one yet (or, you know, attempt to eat one, I guess?). But now if he wakes up early and I have to get ready with him underfoot, I hand over the basket of tampons – guaranteed 5-10 minutes of uninterrupted primping time :)

    • My son is OBSESSED with mine as well- he can play with them for 30 minutes!

  99. Sandra says...

    I love this post! We started to have behavior problems when our 6 yo son had too much phone time so we cut him down to 20 minutes a day with no games (and very few videos) and mostly just allow him to use solar system apps (although we still do the occasion movie or TV show on weekends when the weather is bad). I am loving these ideas for things to help him occupy himself! He’s an only child so we do play with him a lot, but it is nice for him to find things to do on his own too. Leaving paper and markers out for him has been a big hit — he’s so much more interested if the supplies are always out on the table. Also, we made a bunch of planets for his Halloween costume, and he likes to play “planets,” which involves the planets all talking to one another. One thing we’re going to try to do this winter is make a movie. It’s been so fun discuss things with him like genre (comedy? documentary? science fiction?) and casting and scripts. I think it will take us quite a while, and when we’re done we’ll have to do some sort of premiere. :-)

    • Beth says...

      My son’s a senior in high school now but when he was younger, he was completely Lego-obsessed (which we loved), and sometime about aged 6 or 7 he started making his own stop-action animation movies with his Lego creations. One little 3-minute movie could take him days to make, between building the Legos, setting up his shot and photographing it (times 1000), and then putting it all together. As he got older, the movie plots got more complicated and the animation (and movie editing techniques) became much more sophisticated- it was so great. He’s grown into such a creative young adult, and he still blows my mind with the things he creates (he’s now completely into making music and paintings and graphic design).

  100. Teresa says...

    My 12 and 10 year old STILL love the magnatiles!

    Another perennial favorite is making little fairy houses. Outside, its sticks and leaves and dirt. Inside, they reorganize our book shelves to make “rooms” and decorate with odd mixtures of doll house furniture or home made furnishings like cotton ball beds or lego sofas. The finishing touch are the battery operated votives that they pretend are fireplaces. :)

  101. Nomi says...

    It’s actually really, really simple. Don’t have a TV. Kids do the rest.

    • eg says...

      I assume this is a joke.

  102. Lauren E. says...

    I was just telling someone at work about how a dollhouse was the ultimate toy for me because it led to so many other projects – building tiny furniture with loose bits from around the house, learning to sew so that I could turn old bath towels into bedspreads and pillow shams, creating storylines among the dolls. I sometimes think that was the only toy I ever needed as a kid.

  103. Elizabeth says...

    I love this! I’ve been reading up on Montessori, and these ideas definitely jive with the philosophy of the “prepared environment” to help support kids’ independence and creativity!

  104. Yes, agree completely! I realized all of this once my oldest was in preschool and I paid attention to how the preschool room was set up and tried to mirror it (somewhat) in our home. I have no affiliation whatsoever with this blog, but it is chock full of amazing play ideas, here’s her playroom post: http://www.playathomemomllc.com/2011/10/a-playroom-that-grew-over-time/

  105. Emily says...

    this book
    Teach Me to do it Myself

  106. Emily says...

    Check out this book; it is full of amazing ideas and you don’t need a lot of new materials.
    Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child by Maja Pitamic.

  107. Carol says...

    Not fair…we want White House pictures now!

    • Beth says...

      Agree!

  108. Meg says...

    I love this. My mom, who was a Waldorf kindergarten teacher, always says that toys should look like they are just waiting for the child to come and play with them. So, as you said, not just thrown in a heap in a box….she’s always setting up little, simple scenes (a doll sitting at a table, a toy horse pulling a wagon) — they look so inviting –and it makes it easier for the child to enter into his/her own imaginative world with that one little nudge. Another thing I love that she says is that children want to feel your presence but it’s not necessarily a good thing for you to give them your full, undivided attention while they’re playing — It’s harder for them to get lost in their own little worlds if you’re kind of bearing down on them but sitting there staring at them. So doing something with your hands nearby — like folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, knitting (haha, yeah right, i’m talking about an ideal version of myself here:) ) — lets your kids know you’re present but also occupied in your own tasks — and it frees them up to play on their own. I’ve found that reading (and esp. reading on your phone) doesn’t work at all — they know that your mind is elsewhere and that you’re not really “present.”

    • Cynthia says...

      This is great wisdom here. I couldn’t agree more and I speak from experience having already raised two boys.

    • Katherine says...

      YES! Great suggestion. Especially about not being on the phone.

    • megan says...

      Great advice, thank you.

      Funny enough, I always feel best when I’m near her, folding laundry or doing something else quietly, but close enough for a conversation. It’s really peaceful for everyone, I think, and feels kind of old-fashioned in it’s simplicity.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this, meg. thank you.

    • Mya says...

      Yes, I nodded the whole way through!

  109. Christine says...

    My daughter loves using her dollhouse and other structures for her dinosaurs and toy cars. She’ll make up scenarios about them eating, sleeping, going to the park, and tuck them in for naps and sleep.

    She also loves beads. I have wooden round ones for her as well as animal shaped ones. She can sort them for a long time, dividing them by color, shape, size, animal, putting them into different containers, lining them up.

    Magna tiles are wrapped up under the tree for her! So excited (I used to be a preschool teacher and those were a favorite.)

  110. Lavinia B. says...

    Playmobil – from age 4 on (my daughter is 8 now and still loves it). You can discover whole new worlds. There are so many choices, and it’s not boy- or girl-focused. She plays by herself after school, and with her friend. Sometimes they get both of their Playmobils together and create big elaborate scenarios (like a hotel in a zoo).
    Also, sketch books and colored pencils for any age.

    • Yes, Playmobil is such a hit at our house. Even my newly turned two year old has a ton of fun setting up little scenes. She especially loves the small playground, and mimics what she does when she goes to the playground.

    • Loesie says...

      Big hit here too. Great to combine as well. I have fond memories of it myself!

    • Lavinia B. says...

      Oh, and right now, the Playmobil people also like to hang out with the dollhouse family in the Nativity under the Christmas tree (together with some knights on horses). It’s such a limitless toy.

  111. Becky Hanna says...

    Great article. So many good ideas for kiddos. I remember our “special treats” growing up. My parents had three kids on one income and things got creative. My favorite treat was my mom would give each child an egg to do with as we pleased. We knew this was a big deal as 3 eggs was a sacrifice of 1 breakfast for us. So I would sit outside mixing it together with cut flowers. Dirt. Grass clippings anything I could find and imagined myself making potions, pretended to be teaching a cooking show, even making medicine for my dolls. It was such a simple ingredient but it was magical to us. She didn’t do it often so that made it even better. We never tired of getting an egg.

    Also for bath times she would buy Barbasol because it was cheap and give each kid a big squirt on the wall. We would draw pictures. Make pies and make beards with it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, brittany!

  112. Dee says...

    In our house we are fans of ‘junk modelling’. Basically the recycling basket plus masking tape, kid scissors, glue stick, pens, tin foil and coloured paper… make a model of whatever you like. Sometimes there’s a theme (mode of transport, fantastic beast -thanks JK for that one!- imaginary town, robot, spy gadget etc) to get them started. The theme has to be something where you can entirely make up the model though (so no real animals, under the sea etc) otherwise it ends in stress when the correct colour papers/pens/shaped box is not available! Learnt that by bitter experience!!

  113. Lizzy says...

    So funny, my 2 year-old just discovered the joy of masking tape, too! Such an awesome toy. I also have a 1 year-old so try to have a small number of simple, sturdy toys they can both play with. I gravitate towards Waldorf-type toys: big pieces of fabric they use for costumes/forts/peekaboo/pretend beds, swimming pools, etc.; simple dolls; and Santa is bringing us a rocker board in a few weeks! They also love big boxes, kitchen tongs, pot lids, paper towel rolls, mom/dad’s shoes/clothes, rocks, pinecones, sticks, etc.

    I love your idea of setting out stations so they don’t go to the shelves, dump everything on the floor, and then not play with any of it. But that takes some effort, haha!

  114. Jillian says...

    Love this! My daughter attends a Reggio preschool (it’s super cozy) and in the morning, when the children arrive the teachers have set out “provocations”, little scenes like you’ve described with toys and natural materials. The build, potter, tinker, and learn to be capable humans through play!

  115. Amy says...

    I love the idea of stations too! I rotate our toys every month or two so we don’t have tons out at a time and so things stay fresh for them, but stations is another great idea. I’m a stay-at-home mom so my kids are pretty used to me telling them I can’t play because I have to work (laundry, cooking, caring for the baby etc) and they have to come up with something themselves. My 3yo son has really been into strings and ropes. He ties up all sorts of toys and chairs. And yes, flashlights and tape measures are big around here too! Stacking cups are still enjoyed by the 5yo; not just for stacking but for arranging things in etc. I’d like to get one of those rugs that has roads and buildings on it for a city sometime soon; I think my kids would get a lot of mileage out of it! And Duplo of course is a standard free-play toy here (the more restrictive Lego “sets” have just been annoying for both them and us…a mixed box has way more potential in our house)

    • Amy says...

      And the tampons story made me laugh so hard – I’m keeping that idea tucked away for a future bad day :’D

    • Our 3 yr old son who LOVES vehicles of all kinds is getting a road rug for his bedroom for Christmas- I’m so excited for him!

  116. Magantiles for sure- my kids have played with them for years. Combining them with match box cars is fun or little plastic creatures from the dollar store. Also- I can’t say enough about legos (we keep them in a “swoop bag” all combined together – I swear they are more creative that way) I also give them challenges – this weekend asked them if they could build a Christmas scene. They made trees and presents all out of legos. They were adorable and so creative – I will tag you on my Instagram so you can see! :) I need to try the tampon thing- you might be onto a product there ;).

  117. Cynthia says...

    First of all allowing children to waste and play with sanitary products is just gross. It seems disrespectful too, of privacy and decorum. That said, I love all the other ideas about less stuff and more discovery. I remember renting a house on the ocean for a week with boys about your boys’ ages and we didn’t bring a single toy or book. We brought our groceries in boxes and the boys spent the entire week playing with those boxes, some rope found on the beach, and sticks. Endless fun. When my boys were older if they ever said “I’m bored” (which was rare), I replied: “Wonderful! Now you’re really going to find some fun!”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, cynthia! i hear your point and appreciate it.

      it’s interesting that you mentioned privacy — i actually have always been really open about discussing menstrual cycles and bodies with my two boys. they both know what tampons are used for, in a basic age-appropriate way (women bleed a little every month and that means that their bodies are getting ready to have a baby, if the woman and her partner, if she has one, decide to try for that), and i’m always happy to honestly answer any questions they have about menstrual cycles, sex, etc.

      so while we try not to waste too many tampons on play (mama needs them!), i’m glad the boys know what they’re for and how they work. an interesting discussion, for sure, and a personal one for every parent/family! thank you again for your note.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      also i loved your note about not bringing toys to the beach! it sounds like a really amazing week!

    • Cynthia says...

      Regarding your comment below, Johanna: I’m all for age-appropriate discussion about bodies and baby-making and did the same with my boys. I simply draw the line about bringing out the products for entertainment and waste. There are pop-up sponges that I buy and use in the kitchen that do the same thing and I’d have no problem letting youngsters enjoy one of those from time to time. Then I’d suggest they employ it usefully to clean the floor or wipe their toys down!

    • Brianna says...

      I get not bringing toys to the beach, but I’d have lost my mind as a kid if my parents denied me bringing a book anywhere.

    • Kattia says...

      Woah! I think your comment sounded a little too Judgey & rude. I for one come to Joanna’s blog bc I appreciate her ability to share openly & Her easy going honesty. It’s a toddler, it’s a tampon, what’s the big deal!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, yes, don’t worry, we don’t bring them out for play, except for maybe one as a special treat per month :) he originally discovered the joy of them when i was in the shower, oops!

    • Toni says...

      Thank you joanna for beeing so Open and ecouraging your readers to be open with their kids about menstrual cycles and sex!
      Here in Germany it is a big taboo…
      Could you consider a post on how you Talk with the Boys about that stuff? I would be very thankful for that!

  118. Jaclyn says...

    Thanks for sharing this article and your tips for what you do with your kids! I have a 6 month little girl so we are new into the whole parenting thing but I’m tucking this away.

    I appreciated at the end of the article “In fact, there’s a lesson here for all of us. Switching off, doing nothing and letting the mind wander can be great for adults too – we should all try to do more of it.”

    Kids often get a bad wrap for wanting to be on screens all the time or not wanting to play outside – but most likely they are imitating what they are seeing around them. A great reminder for myself!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      totally, jaclyn! i also liked this quote, below, which reminded me of how i always have ideas in the shower or while cleaning my closet:

      “A study has even shown that, if we engage in some low-key, undemanding activity at same time, the wandering mind is more likely to come up with imaginative ideas and solutions to problems.”

  119. crystal says...

    Amelia you are hilarious. I want to know more than what I saw on Instagram about the White House too!!!

    Yes – we are big believers in my house in Free Play. My girls are 3 and 4 and it is hilarious to hear what scenarios they come up with when playing. But now I’m going to move all the toys from the downstairs playroom to the upstairs and only bring out a few items at a time. The mass toy rotations are just too much. Thank you as always for wonderful content!

  120. riye says...

    Cardboard rolls from paper towels or toilet paper were hugely popular when we were kids. We made trains, animals, rafts–the sky was the limit. We embellished them with marker pens, colored pencils, and crayons. Sometimes if we were really lucky we’d have glue and glitter. :-D

  121. Elisabeth says...

    When I was growing up, we had lots of options to play with and often created our own toys and games (an exciting game of ‘orphan’ led us to climb out the window to ‘escape’). We also had a bit of external motivation. Whenever we would say “I’m bored,” and whine my mom, she would usually respond with chores: “Well, you could fold these socks for me.” Once the task had been named, you had to do it – a great deterrent to relying on her for ideas. Sometimes she’d play with us as well, but often she would subtly encourage us to be bored and figure it out ourselves. Now that I have a daughter of my own I’ve been trying to include her in my chores, while also giving her opportunities to entertain herself. Recently ‘helping’ do the dishes and playing with some silver snowflakes we got out for Christmas have been favorites.

  122. I know this is going to sound super Pintrest-y but I put chalkboard paint on a designated area of wall for my 6yr old to draw on to his hearts content. He loves it!

    • Kat says...

      We chalkboard painted the end of the kitchen island (there’s wasn’t a stove on it) so the kids were in the same room but out of the way. Plus my cabinets were dark so you couldn’t even tell!

    • Mila says...

      They make chalkboard contact paper. So, you don’t have to actually paint your wall.
      Works great. I have a whole wall of it up in our playroom.

  123. Lucy S says...

    Montessori!!!! Independent play and learning, using materials and imagination.

    I like to set my daughter up with something fun each day so when she comes downstairs her bears are having a tea party or her animal figures are parading in a pattern on the floor- she then gets straight into playing. It seriously takes 2 minutes before going to bed, and is so worth it.

    Another tip from my Ma, buy a big roll of underlay wallpaper (it’s so much cheaper than printer paper) and cover a small table with it. Then they can colour colour colour with no mess and no limits.

  124. Laura C. says...

    My girls like to dress up- oh, my little one has discovered to the joy of playing with my sanitary pads. She is like “I don’t know what is it, but I like to stick it wherever”.
    The thing is, when they get bored, the one thing that they like is running in the house. Sometimes with Elsa heels.
    Yes Joanna, tell us about the White House!!

    • Oh my gosh, what your daughter says is so cute and hilarious!

  125. Kali says...

    Washi tape, especially of the glitter or metallic variety. Any kid who has ever come to our house, no matter the age, will spend a significant amount of time creating with it. With my girls, it often ends up throughout the house but it peels right off.

    In a separate question, my 3-year old is in a huge, what I call, “hunting and gathering” phase. She finds a container and then raids the house for stuff to put in said container. She’ll play with it for a good amount of time, so that’s not the issue. It’s that I then have to put back one million little things if I ever want my chapstick or watch or pen again. I’ve ordered a toy cash register for xmas hoping the toy money will be fun to “gather” but if anyone else has any suggestions … I’m all ears.

  126. Jane says...

    Ha! Tampons are a definite winner with my two year old Tom :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha i’m glad to hear someone else’s kid is into them!

    • Loesie says...

      It sure sounds interesting!

      I still have a small cat (very,very small) that you can put into a glass of water and it expands a little every day. It turns out pretty big in the end! Had lots of fun with it!!!

  127. Love the ideias! Do you know Uncle Goose blocks? Its amazing.

  128. Auste says...

    Tampons! That’s hilarious! My 20 month old recently discovered pads. Unwrapping it, peeling off the wrapper and sticking it to everything… But aside from that, my girls love to have parties: tea parties, birthday parties, dinner parties. They set up all their play dishes on the coffee table (including these really adorable little plastic wine goblets we found at Ikea!) and they go nuts! They won’t ever tire of play-doh or kinetic sand either. That stuff is the best! Magnatiles, too! My four year old is really good at being “bored”… the little one just follows suit and does whatever her sister does. I’m so happy to finally have hit that sweet spot where they play together!

  129. Di says...

    I started a “misc box”- you know bits and pieces you find and think would be good for play but can never find when you need them. Bubble wrap, an interesting small box that can be turned into so many things, ribbons, aluminum foil, buttons, empty toilet paper rolls etc. This way when boredom strikes, we bring out the box and they both find an activity of interest to them.

    • Madie says...

      This is a terrific idea, thank you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that idea, di!

  130. cooper says...

    Haha, I love the tampon story! And maybe Anton’s imaginative play will prevent that irrational awkwardness that some guys develop around tampons and pads!

    I remember some college friends pranking a guys’ dorm by putting tampons and pads (clean, of course) all over, including on a pan of fresh homemade brownies from one guy’s mom. He ended up throwing the whole pan of brownies away!!! The ridiculousness :)

  131. Ashley Flores says...

    The idea of purposely arranging a prepared environment reminds me of the Montessori approach. Children can and will do things on their own yet as adults we must set out things for them with an eye for beauty and simplicity. It is so true what you said, especially at your younger son’s age, that children process better with less. A few items displayed that are rotated out are much more loved and used then baskets filled in corners.

  132. Ha ha! Just ONE tampon! That is hilarious, and reminds me of the time I was occupied in the bathroom. My littlest one came running to the door and exclaimed, “Mama! Are you eatin’ candy in there?” because apparently unwrapping feminine hygiene products sounds like unwrapping a Snickers bar…

    We have always been pretty hands-off in the entertaining-our-kids department, so they are really good about playing on their own. I’ve come to learn that complaining of being bored is code for wanting some attention from me, not for me to entertain them. A few couch snuggles or reading aloud to them for a little while usually does the trick, then they are back at it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a great insight, lauren!

  133. Jen says...

    Thank you for this post! My little one is still too little to grasp the alone playtime concept (20 months) but I’m already thinking of things to at least get her attention and keep it for more than 30 seconds! Also, to keep her away from ‘Beat Bugs’ (a favorite in our house) or Mickey Mouse on our phones.

  134. Dressing up box, crayons, paper, Lego, books…plus getting out the stuff and leaving them to it. Box of cars. Dolls. Then off you go. They really don’t need any more than that.

  135. Amelia says...

    This is such a great post but I have to admit I refreshed the page like “What about the White House????” :D
    Ok, will model delayed gratification for my toddler, hehe.
    But yes, great topic and I love the idea of stations! As my child gets a little older I’m interested to start reading about how different activity and art- based philosophies like Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and Waldorf might inform how we set up in-home play.

    • Shelby says...

      LOL me too! I was like yes, so great, so happy, engaged children, yay, BUT WHERE ARE THE WHITE HOUSE PHOTOS

    • Brianna says...

      This! I’ve been checking in all morning, waiting for a White House post (and secretly hoping for a beauty uniform/week of outfits from Mrs. O., knowing neither of those will happen).

    • Lindsey says...

      LOL, YES! We need White House photos STAT! :P

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha you guys are the cutest!!! i’m writing a post about it all for tomorrow morning and cannot wait to share! :) :) :)