Notes from participants of recent “Changing the World is Child’s Play” workshops:

Buy the book for even more ideas to make the most of time with children.

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Apple bobbing!

Activity: Playing with Play. We tried out several of these types of play, none of which cost money or require special equipment:

Expressing Emotions

  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Emotions effect relationships
    • Social learning
    • Builds communication and vocabulary
    • Supports further play
    • Uses imagination
    • It give them empathy for other people’s emotions and also their own
    • They are more understanding of adults and their peers
    • Lets them know it’s ok to have these emotions
    • Understanding each other
    • Different emotional responses to the same situation may occur
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Older kids/adults can use the cards to act out the word – reading for inspiration
    • Younger ones can practice naming the emotion and have fun acting them out when told the name – reflecting back
    • Games and role playing for older children

Exploring corners, walls, floor

  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Noticing our surroundings including the detail of them and the potential for play – growing awareness of the world, what is around us and available for us to use
    • Discovery, things we didn’t know before, new ideas
    • New challenges, new everything
    • Re-interpretation of the world
    • Team-work – relationships, social interactions
    • Spatial awareness
    • Delighting in the simple, wandering
    • What is my environment made of? Realising what we already have
    • Confidence in own abilities
    • Critical thinking
    • Comparing our previous experience and this new one, and differing experiences between same people doing the same thing
    • Adding value
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Inclusiveness by those older is important to help younger children get into the play
    • All people. All ages can explore
    • Get better at this the more we engage in this sort of play and allow children the chance to enjoy spending time in this way
    • Exploring different levels (eye, hand) – access changes as you get bigger and able to reach more (and smaller people may have access to smaller places also)
    • Team work – tall people help small ones, small ones can share small spaces with big people
    • Tuakana-teina relationship – fostering those relationships
    • Asking open questions, stating what we see
    • Pulling things out and exploring them out of their home as well as in their home
    • Hiding, hunts, scavenging


  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Fun, free, relaxing, empowering self confidence
    • Perseverance when not getting it right to keep on trying
    • Helping each other, supporting others, relationship building
    • Protecting ourselves
    • Looking to see structures from differing views
    • Healthy, physical benefits, developing competence, gross & fine motor skills, coordination, fitness
    • Performance – 4 seasons dramatisation about trees
    • Explore ideas with movement play
    • Left and right brain stuff
    • Risk, tree climbing, practicing expanding our comfort zones/limits, health & safety exploring
    • Following instruction through various communications and questioning
    • Teamwork practice and team building, working together and trusting each other, developing relationships
    • Touching and movements – respecting boundaries, cultural boundaries
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Helping each other, being inclusive, tuakana-teina
    • Learning ideas from each other – both older and younger
    • Songs/music/dancing
    • All ages move, from before birth
    • Leader and following roles
    • Telling the children what they are doing but not saying what we think of it – give them the vocabulary to express what they’ve achieved
    • Providing challenges appropriate to stage or age
    • Role modelling and leading by older children or adults and also role reversal with the younger child exploring leadership and the older person following
    • Providing lots of opportunities for practice

Using household itemsSophie boxed up (4)

  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Inventiveness, creativity, imagination, fantasy, make believe
    • Getting involved
    • Construction & engineering
    • Using what we’ve got
    • Transforming, ingenuity, innovative, not boxed in, experimentation, thinking outside the square
    • Relaxing, enjoyable
    • Understanding through experience (without instructions)
    • Ordering and divergent thinking, problem solving
    • Real world as opposed to plastic toys and toys with a set purpose, appreciating what the world is made of and how we can use it in different ways
    • Exploring senses and a variety of textures
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Watching each other, helping each other
    • No rules for “how” we need to play with the items
    • Provide differing range of materials to suit stages of development
    • Rolling, chewing, building, banging, balancing – all available as soon as children begin to control their reflexes. The more practice they get the better they will become with controlling their environment
    • Naming what we see young children are doing – without judging it as good or bad

Finding living things

Cicada wonder

  1. How does this play make a difference in the world?
    • Respect and care for all living things, tolerance, respect, caring, responsibility
    • Consequences
    • Sense of wonder
    • Observing, patience, empathy
    • Lifecycle discussions, harvesting, eco systems, learning how things appear/are born and grow and how things die
    • Making sense of the world
    • Asking questions, wondering
    • Develops curiosity, interest, tactile learning
    • Trial and error learning
  2. How can different ages be included in this play?
    • Exploratory play is available to all ages
    • Touch and look
    • Using the senses
    • Researching and talking about what they know and want to know – getting more autonomous in this process as children get older
    • Encouraging outdoors exploration, provide lots of opportunities for this
    • Repetition, exposure, discussion
    • Telling children what we observe of our natural surroundings and how we are interacting with it
    • Role modelling
    • Acceptance of different levels of competence, interest and complexity of learning


Notes from our brainstorms:

What are society’s attitudes to children and play?

Kaitoke camping with Annika (6)

  • Generally negative
  • Children play, not adults
  • Kids are time wasters
  • Some adults wish they could be free like children but don’t see that they can
  • “Just playing” – considered unimportant
  • They should do it quietly
  • Play is not prioritised
  • Play is something you do when there is nothing better to do
  • Different attitudes in different countries
  • Structured play is the most beneficial
  • Lots of rules, not a lot of freedom
  • Risk is not a good thing, health & safety OTT
  • Conformity is important
  • Organised play is necessary
  • We need toys to play – especially new toys out of the box
  • NZ ECE curriculum embraces play but not yet school
  • Time is considered different to work and there are times for each of these. Usually play comes only after work has been done
  • Tends to stop at school in favour of literacy, maths, lessons, the “real learning”
  • I view play as learning J! Fun!
  • Not open-ended, no “just because”
  • Not valued if not “educational” or academic
  • Straight play is not seen as educational
  • Waste of time
  • Play is what little children do i.e. it’s not for older children or adults, you grow out of it and shouldn’t engage in it anymore, you should get into the “real learning” and “real life”
  • Valuing play more than we used to – slowly seeing it as learning e.g. in new entrant classes
  • It creates lots of mess!
  • There has to be an outcome, some sense of success or failure to achieve this


What stops you engaging in play?

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  • Having to engage in paid (and unpaid) work
  • Housework, cooking, taxi driving, time poor
  • Other children with immediate needs
  • Nothing! Seriously only very pressing emergencies!
  • An inner resistance – too much to do
  • Tiredness, headache
  • A little bored sometimes
  • Mess – creates lots of mess!
  • Loss of the habit! Brainwashed into adulthood
  • Not wearing my Playcentre clothes
  • Not physically flexible enough to get down on the floor, fitness/pain, sore back
  • Repetition, bored
  • Sick of same old schema
  • Feeling embarrassed, lacking self-confidence, doubt my ability to play properly
  • Always so much “paperwork” on session
  • Emotionally drained/distracted
  • Too busy
  • Want to do what’s on my agenda
  • My leisure choices are different from children’s
  • Other people directing it!
  • Having to write a learning story about it!
  • Adult “responsibilities”
  • Too much else on
  • On the phone, laptop, toilet, meeting children’s needs etc.
  • Not interesting, not a priority
  • Need it to be done properly, carefully, tidily
  • It needs to look and go a certain way
  • Senseless play
  • I want “me time”
  • No new ideas
  • I’m an adult, old kid or not a kid


What are some benefits to children & adults of play?

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  • Joy, laughing together, happiness filled
  • Being in the present, slow down time
  • Time together – make time, take time
  • Sharing ideas, self, dreams
  • Learning, exploring
  • Communication
  • Physical activity, fitness, endorphin creation
  • Fresh air
  • Bonding, building strong relationships
  • Turn something boring into fun
  • Discovering their own interests, getting to know each other on lots of levels, enjoying each other and appreciating each person’s input
  • Relaxing, fun, enjoying “life’s” moments
  • Memories being laid down, brain structures being formed for life, linking play with good feelings
  • Making the most of time together
  • Stress relief, emotional release
  • Expression of selves
  • Cause and effect learning (real life consequences on a small, manageable scale)
  • Confidence building, responsibility
  • Flexibility in play
  • Positive, vibrant
  • Extends you as an adult
  • Seeing a different perspective
  • Keeps us young and enthusiastic


How can we inject play into normal everyday activities and interactions?


  • Making something into a game
  • Asking questions
  • Being enthusiastic
  • Let go of expectations
  • Expect to have to clean up/do the job again and be ok with that
  • Do jobs as pirates or fairies
  • Make it an adventure
  • Ask children to take the lead and we do what they say
  • Do jobs joyfully throughout their childhood – role modelling
  • Singing, making up songs about what you’re doing
  • Adding role plays
  • Slowing down
  • Accepting help from children with tasks
  • Asking them to take on tasks
  • Giving them responsibilities, asking which they’d like to take on
  • Taking extra time to e.g. vacuum up to an hour to do a 10 minute job – but great learning/bonding along the way
  • Making it sound cool and exciting
  • Friendly competition
  • “Fantasy” play incorporated e.g. washing, dishes, submarines J
  • Turn the screens off
  • Being present, mind and body, when children initiates it
  • Giggling about anything
  • Having plans to get to something else e.g. put clothes at washing machine, put on pjs, then pupper show time
  • Doing chores/work/jobs with a buddy
  • Flying into bed
  • Including children from early on
  • Giving them responsibilities
  • Taking the time
  • Setting them up for success and how to remedy if they don’t succeed (take responsibility with them for cleaning up the mess)
  • Making it a race
  • Break the rules – go outside in the rain
  • Have changes of clothes/appropriate wet weather gear
  • Give your time … have a break from chores together
  • Being fun yourself
  • Acknowledge effort put in to everyday activities – adults and children
  • Adding something unfamiliar to the routine
  • Ask what children thought of what they did themselves before (or instead of) adding our judgements – positive or negative


How can we create NEW play opportunities – adventures, creativity, new tasks?

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  • Be outdoors, camping, bushwalks, explore our environment
  • Go into nature and just be
  • Allow time to explore
  • Pot luck dinner and games time
  • Make chores fun, introduce dishes alongside Mum
  • Think outside the box – re-purpose things
  • Not prescribed toys e.g. plastic petrol pump has one purpose. So use toys that can be anything e.g. basic building blocks
  • Ask your child
  • Change names for play regularly
  • Respond to their conversations, suggestions and requests, sometimes even if not convenient
  • Try something that someone else is doing
  • Make ourselves fun in all we do
  • “what else can I do with this?”
  • Involve friends/make new friends
  • Centre swap – fresh ideas
  • It’s ok to do nothing (be bored or dream or just sit and be)
  • Follow our children’s lead
  • Open opportunity, no end limits
  • Remove agendas and time constraints
  • Let go of the need for it to work, go, turn out in a certain way – whatever we are doing
  • Go with the flow
  • Pinterest and other ways to get new ideas
  • Unleash your inner child – think like a child
  • Drive to somewhere you’ve never been
  • Go a different way and explore somewhere new – this can be physical or mental or emotional…


“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”

George Bernard Shaw


Buy the book for even more ideas to make the most of time with children. Arohanui, S xx