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What is PLAY POTENTIAL?


'Play Potential' is a phrase I use a lot but you may be left wondering what on earth I'm on about...don't worry you're certainly not the only one!!

Play Potential is a phrase I use to describe the opportunities for play a toy or resource offers. So to put it simply, how many different ways it can be used in play.

For a toy, it might be that it has more than one purpose or function. How many times have you bought a toy for a young child that actually offers very little entertainment with only one or very few varieties for play? Trust me, I've been bought many and they are often the expensive ones with bright lights and annoying music!! Ha ha!

A toy with lots of play potential would be something like a kitchen, a den, play dough etc Things that can be used in more than one way. And often the best way to discover the different ways something can be played with is by letting a child have free reign of the toy (not dictating their play) but sitting back and seeing what they come up with themselves. Children are great at doing this, but only when they are given the freedom to do so. And one of the best times for a child to be creative with their toys is when a child is bored, they will be more imaginative with the toys that they have.

A good way of encouraging a play potential is by leaving it out for a child to discover for themselves. Maybe leave it in the middle of the room with other items put away. Pairing it with resources or toys it wouldn't normally be paired with. Or moving it, taking it down from the shelf and onto your child's level. If its indoors move it outdoors. Or try placing it somewhere unusual, kids love playing in new places so under the table or behind the sofa can be great.

And it's not just toys that offer great play potential. Everyday items can also be really versatile- hence my playPROMPTS. I created these to show that items you have around the house can be used in play. But not only those, items that are often thrown in the recycling often offer great play potential too. And it's once you start spotting this potential that you will feel confident to try new types of play.

If I had a super power I think mine would be 'spotting play potential in everyday items'! I know, flashy hey?! But it is this reason that I find it hard to throw things away or have begun many random collections. To the everyday eye, these seem ridiculous but to the playful eye, they are purposeful!

I am a creative person so I think I have always thought in this way and I know many can find this bit tricky. So something to encourage your inner 'play potential powers' would be to start saving activities you see that are realistic that you could do at home. This will soon create a bank of ideas for those days when your creative juices are lacking.

And then, most importantly... have the confidence to play around with play. The beauty of play is that you cannot get it wrong, trust me! As long as its SAFE that is! But other than that you cannot get play wrong. If your child doesn't like an activity or isn't interested they will simply walk away! This doesn't mean it's a fail, it just means they weren't in the mood for it. So leave it out for a week so they can return when they are ready. If they still don't play with it, you haven't lost anything, but at least you tried! Now you have the resources, save them and try again in a couple of months when your child is older. You know your child better than anyone, you know what they like and what they don't like and you will soon start to create activities that follow their interests. This is when you become creative. Adapting ideas you've seen to suit your child's interersts and their ability.

Finally, my words of wisdom to you... if you would like to begin to see the play potential in toys and resources...next time you're out shopping and see a toy you think your little one would love. Challenge yourself to think of at least three different ways it can be used, not just its sole purpose! If you can, it's allowed in your trolley...if not put it back!!

Go on, have a rummage in your recycling box and see what you can come up with to reuse those boxes, bottles and tubes. Oh and if you're struggling, the playPROMPTS APP was made to offer a creative helping hand for reusing such items. Click here to download the FREE web app today!

Happy Playing!

Claire x