Do it like school does.
Preschool children come in to a room that has been staged. There is usually a theme. Let’s say it is about building. There will be a table with nuts and bolts to screw together. There will be a picture at another table to color or do some type of art work about building. There will be a table with play dough with some type of objects that refer to building. There will be books about the subject of building. There will be work clothes in the drama section, tractors and blocks, etc. The whole room is staged to engage your child in play and discovery.
Stage at home.
Have a designated table, a chalkboard wall, a bulletin board… close to where you are working that is a good staging area for something unexpected. As your children are engaging nicely at a random time, take a few minutes to stage an activity when they don’t notice. THIS IS THE KEY. THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE IS WHAT MAKES IT WORK SO WELL. Put it out on the table you have designated. As they start to hang on your legs, ask for food when they aren’t hungry walk them over to the brand new activity that they hadn’t noticed and let them go at it. Sometimes I would cover it with a towel.
I have done surprise staging tables even as my children have grown older. Many times the older children will enjoy doing the staging table activity playing with the younger siblings, but sometimes not. But they played and discovered.
A big no-no in my childhood philosophy is to rate a toy or activity by age.
“Oh that is too young for you!”
That is so beyond ridiculous! When my husband turned 40 I took all his “boy friends” and went slot car racing and gave each one a match box car. They LOVED it! We are all young at heart. We never are too old for toys! Look up the America’s Funniest Home Video of the grandpa caught playing with Legos and making fighting noises that boys do naturally. He won! Why do Google’s Campus’s have Lego rooms, and play equipment everywhere. Play stimulates creativity and thought. Make staging tables and sit down yourself and play.
Ideas for a few:
- Brand new freshly made homemade, play dough. Not the kind you buy. This smells great and has a better consistency for play. It is luscious warm, too. A very sensory pleasing moment. Put out strange things to do with it. Not the commercial toys. Put golf tees, plastic flowers and cups, of course butter knives, army men, Legos, etc.
- Save the last bits inside the bottom of the cereal box and put them out with a big bowl and a small pitcher of water. Allow your child to make their own food concoctions. Let them stir and mix and pour. Put a broom next to the area. Teach them to sweep and pick up. They can do it and that is part of the fun.
- Put out an old game that the kids have not played in awhile. Stage it like you are selling it. Set it up, have snacks next to it. Make it look engaging.
- A bowl of sudsy water and a bunch of little toys. Make it a car wash, an animal bath, a bubble tea party, let them play in the suds.
- Shaving cream dollop on a cookie sheet. Put a drop of food coloring on top and let them finger paint on the cookie sheet. It cleans quick in water.
- Set up toys you have put away. They become new again.
- Cardboard boxes and tubes, and lots and lots of tape, etc.
- A pile of Legos with NO Directions!
- Gelatin or Jell-O to play in, cut up, bounce toys off of..and eat with their fingers
- The list is endless. Use what your family likes to do and has around.
NOTE: Tired mammas, daddys, caregivers, or grandparents can minimize clean up by going to the dollar store and buying a pile of plastic table cloths. When you stage put one under. When they are done, save it or gather the mess and toss the whole thing. Plan a stage every week and keep track. You will see how much fun it is.