I love a theme - either for a play session or as topic for a couple of weeks. They give a good opportunity to explore new ideas and vocabulary associated with that topic, giving them chance to do lots of lovely play based learning. I find it also gives me a good motivating kick to become animated and excited about play again - kids feed off that and, in my view, learn more when you are both having fun! Whenever I feel myself uninspired by the play I’ve been doing with the girls I knock up a quick themed session or rotate all the toys that are on display, loosely based on a specific theme.
Ada is learning about harvest at the moment at school and has her harvest festival this week so I thought it would work for both girls if I dug out the 1990s plastic farm, animals, all our books and activities on farm animals and base all our play around it.
Via PADS Early Development Group Sessions (PEGS) we get ideas to support our baby’s development on a fortnightly basis, via a video, with a follow up group session led by a specialist to go through how our babies are getting on. It’s been brilliant for keeping ideas fresh and to know I’m supporting Frida’s development in the best possible way.
One of the activities we are doing at the moment is matching pictures to objects. I’ve taken photos of some of her favorite items and we are working on choosing and matching using the cards and her favourite toys.
However, in line with our farm topic, I visited our friends at Five Minute Make and Play for a set of her farm animal flash cards and set up a matching game for Frida today using the cards and Duplo farm animals. Sadly she hasn’t been feeling her best today (pesky teeth / bugs / snot!) so we didn’t get very far with it other than for her to have a good chew of the flash cards (they need laminating before we play again!!). We decided that the best thing for it was to snuggle up with Mr Tumble on the TV…. The farm episode of course!
Setting out play in this way I draw in methods suggested by our SLT, PEGS, and from my reading and general knowledge. Both girls can access the stuff and gain something different from it at the same time that is relevant to their stage and interests.
A good themed set of toys allows me and the girls to explore so many different activities across several days and we can weave in things like:
Listening to sounds
Putting objects on and in
Hiding objects (memory games)
Sharing books together
Discussion about animals / farming
From what I understand of early development and specifically in relation to speech and language development, the massive benefit to Frida is that the vocabulary is all constantly repeated and used in a slightly different way so she builds up a broad understanding of how to use those words. Also, I sign all the animals repetitively too so she has good exposure to them also. That’s how she learned ‘dog’ - by constant repetition from all of us whenever our dog Billy was around. She’s now learnt that it applies to all dogs, not just Billy, just by being consistent and repeating it constantly whenever we see dogs or pictures of dogs.
Frida loves to play. As well as the play we do together, she is also very very good at independent play. Now she has started crawling she leaves a glorious trail of casted and posted toys in her wake - I’m particularly enjoying finding Mr Tumble in the nappy box and peg dolls in the shelving units!
Play is so very important to a child’s development - it is their occupation. If you can get excited and inspired by playing with them in some way, that interaction, modelling, and enjoyment you bring will set them up in really good stead for all the learning that comes with it.