5 Reasons Your Child Won’t Play & What You Can Do About It!
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 and independent play you want for your child.
#1 Toys Are Not Appropriately Challenging
Toys are tools. We have to remember this. It’s so easy to think of toys as entertainment as something that’s going to entertain our kids. Not True. Kids create their own entertainment and they use things like toys.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This
Our children will use toys (or Tupperware or electrical outlets if we aren’t careful) to create their own entertainment. They use these tools to work through the challenge (or schema) they are currently working on.
These tools (the toys) need to match that schema and therefore the appropriate challenge level. For example, puzzles, play mobile, 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 time and time again may not be challenging enough for her.
We want to try to match the tools to the project. What is your child currently working on?
Balance and gravity
Building and constructing worlds
Acting out real world scenarios like a trip to the Doctor’s office
Building train tracks or roads
Cooking imaginary cakes and breakfasts
Caring for a baby or stuffed animal
#2 Too Many Toys
Too Much Clutter! Even if your toys are excellent tools for your children and are the perfect wooden, imagine into, no batteries required, type toys there can still be too many. 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 leaves your children feeling overwhelmed instead of inspired.
If this is you and you want to skip right to decluttering check out 5 decluttering mistakes we make when we try to declutter and 7 Reasons We Have Too Many Toys to get you started on your decluttering efforts. Or if you’ve tried decluttering but find your mindset holds you back check out my podcast episode to help you through the process. You can also join the Reclaim Play Challenge where I give an in-depth guide to help you declutter.
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#3 Your Kids are Dependent on Others to Play for Them
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 (for) 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 to shake the rattle for them, and sing songs, and play music, and clap for them, and show them every item, and explain every item, and narrate their every move “oh you have the blue block, now you grabbed the red block, now you stacked the blue block on the red block, now the blocks fell over” and and and… I’m overwhelmed just typing it. While the intention behind this is a noble one, to help children build a vocabulary and become the next Einstein, I disagree with the process. I believe it’s really important for children to have time when no one is talking to them. For children to be able to have quiet to sink into their own deep immersive play. For them to have the space to think through their own ideas, actions, and outcomes.
If you’ve fallen into the trap of more more more and find your child is dependent on you for play you can help him move into independent play (check out my blog post on encouraging independent play in your child and how to “ignore” your child so they can sink into independent play). For now you can start by slowly and gradually removing your input. Think of yourself as the assistant, you help scaffold by setting the projects, setting the stage, then allowing them to take over.
#4 Toys Have Gone Stale
If you have the right types and amount of toys AND your child isn’t dependent on you to play it could just be that the toys have gone stale. When toys sit for too long children tend to lose interest. You’ll notice this most when other children come to your home and take an interest in your toys or your child takes an interest in toys in other homes but suddenly loses interest with their own toys. This is because they’ve become too familiar with the toy and there’s no novelty or excitement in it.
The solution – run out and buy more toys! No, I’m 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 site of the children) and then re-introduce them again at a later time. Bonus – this helps keep a decluttered and minimalistic environment!
Sometimes kids are just 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 on the flip side which of these you totally rock at! Let me know in the comments below!
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