Having a free play time to explore surroundings and please senses is very important for growing kids, but having structured play is also equally important for the growing brain. Structured play can also help toddlers being occupied in fun activities and are great way to introduce your kids with new ideas.
Science says that a human brain can keep up the concentration for maximum 45 minutes in single activity and then needs a break. Same applies for kids as well, but of course their attention span is lot less than 45 minutes. Thus any structured activity should last for around 20 – 30 minutes before giving a break for food, nap, free play or screen time etc.
Please remember, anything in access can be boring, so begin with one activity a day and then move to more structured play time. And respect the choices of your kids. If they are not interested in a particular things, motivate them to do it, but don’t push them.
Following are few structured play activities that can help keep kids busy and also help their skills and understanding develop well.
Imitate household chore
Give them a clean cloth and show them how to wipe the table. Remember, they are kids and might mouth the cloth or lick the table, so give them a clean table to wipe. The intention here is not to clean a table, but to teach them life skills and keep them occupied.
Pick and drop
Keep some cloths on floor scattered in a room. Keep laundry basket in a corner and show them once how to pick up and drop them in laundry basket. Let them practice 2-3 times and every time there’s a cloths change etc, ask them to drop cloths in laundry basket. Similarly, you can show them how to drop papers into dustbin, dry washed utensils with clean cloth, wash fruits etc and make it into a game.
Create learning or play stations in different corners of room. Keep telling them that the items from the play station are not suppose to move out of the designated area. It might take some time, but slowly they’ll realise that if they need to play at a particular station, they need to sit at the designated area and play. Don’t keep too many activities / toys at each station, keep it thematic. For eg. Station 1 has shapes matching game, station 2 has building blocks, station 3 has dress up the doll etc. Learning station can also have hand to eye coordination games like lacing or beading activities or fine motor skill like peeling an egg etc.
If your kid is more interested in music, you can also create music station for them. A table with drums, sticks, different cups and objects that make different sounds, glass bowls filled with water, zylophone, metal plates with a spoon, bottles filled with cereals, pebbles, grains etc can be used. Basically anything that can make sound and lets them explore their musical curiosity.
But to be able to master ideas like these, kids needs to explore what happens when they try different styles of doing same activity. They can benefit both from observing parents (instructor) and from exploring on their own. Once you’ve given them the materials they need, let them explore in whatever way they choose. Please don’t feel the need to manage their play. Although it’s fun to demonstrate new concepts to your baby, they should be able to decide what they want to do with the material provided.