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You want a present, peaceful and playful family life? I'm here to help you make that a reality.

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5 Reasons Your Child Won’t Play & What You Can Do About It!

Toys are tools. It’s so easy to think of toys as something that will entertain our kids. Not True. Kids create their own entertainment and they use things like toys.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This

You’ve decluttered, you’ve bought all these beautiful toys, and yet you find your children still aren’t playing. Now what? Chances are you just need to make a few minor adjustments (no extra shopping trips required) to ignite the deep, immersive, independent play you want for your child.

Here are 5 reasons your child won’t play and what to do about it:

  1. Toys Are Not Appropriately Challenging
    Our children use toys to create their own entertainment. They use these tools to work through challenges (or schema) they are currently working on. These tools/toys, therefore, need to match the schema and provide the appropriate level of challenge. For example, puzzles, Playmobil, and little pieces that are difficult to manipulate may be too complex for your 2-year-old, but those same manipulatives that your 5-year-old has solved over and over again may not be challenging enough for her. What is your child currently working on: imaginary play, constructing worlds, building train tracks, or perhaps developing their balance? We want to match the tools to the task at hand.
  2. Too Many Toys
    Even if your toys are excellent tools for your children, there still may be too many of them available. Imagine trying to work with 7 choices of computers, 8 phones, and 20 pens and pencils all laying out on your desk. Or imagine trying to cook when all of your plates, Tupperware, and kitchen items are scattered on the counter. No matter how wonderful the choices are, too many choices and too much clutter leaves no clear surface to play and your children will likely feel overwhelmed instead of inspired. If this is you and you want to skip right to decluttering, check out 5 decluttering mistakes and 7 reasons we have too many toys to get you started. Or if you’ve tried decluttering but find your mindset holds you back, check out this podcast episode to help guide you through the process. You can also join the Reclaim Play Challenge where I offer doable action steps to help you declutter.
  3. Your Kids are Dependent on Others to Play for Them
    So, you’ve decluttered, you have age-appropriate and schema-appropriate toys for your child to work with, and yet they’re still dependent on you (or a friend, relative, sibling) to play with them. The good news is you’re not alone! This tends to be a very common issue in our culture. We’re told to talk to young babies almost incessantly and sing and clap and do all kinds of things for them… I’m overwhelmed just typing it. While the intention is good, I disagree with the process. I believe it’s really important for children to have time when no one is talking to them to be able to sink into deep, immersive play. If you’ve fallen into the trap of more, more, more, and find your child is dependent on you for play, learn more about how to encourage independent play and how to “ignore” your child so they can sink into play. For now, you can start by slowly and gradually removing your input. Think of yourself as the assistant, helping to scaffold your child by setting the stage and then allowing them to take over.
  4. Toys Have Gone Stale
    Another issue that comes up is that the toys have gone stale. When toys sit for too long, children tend to lose interest. You may notice this when other children take an interest in your child’s toys or your child takes an interest in other children’s toys. This is because they’ve become too familiar with their own toys and don’t find them novel or exciting anymore. The solution: run out and buy more toys! Just kidding. (Although that is what our culture tends to tell us). Instead, use the power of rotation! Take toys out that are going stale, store them away for awhile (completely out of sight) and then re-introduce them again at a later time. As a bonus, this helps keep your home decluttered and minimalistic!
  5. Strewing!
    Sometimes kids are simply uninspired by their toys. They don’t know what to do or how to take that toy to the next level in their play, and that’s okay. Think of yourself as the curator of the best children’s museum ever! How can you set up the playroom and the toys themselves in such a way that they will become irresistible to your children? This curation is what I refer to as the art of strewing or setting out play invitations for your children. Week Two of the Reclaim Play Challenge is all about strewing!

Do you find one of these reasons to be the biggest hindrance to independent play or do you find it’s something else? I would love to hear which of these is most difficult or which of these you totally rock at! Leave a comment below or join me on Instagram @parentingjunkie!


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