Helping parents with play time
Belmont mum-of-two Erica Carew was trying to keep a two-year-old boy entertained during lockdown when she decided to write down a bunch of creative play ideas.
They were simple and inexpensive activities such as making a cake, having lunch in a different spot, play dough creations and puzzle time.
With 37 days until she was due to have her second child, Erica – a school teacher – says those lockdown days felt long and having a go-to list helped immensely.
“Knowing that I had completed one fun activity a day made me feel like I had accomplished something and I had done something that was good for him, was fun and was benefiting his learning and development,” she recalls.
Erica continued adding to the list after her daughter was born.
“I was chatting with some of my other ‘mum’ friends who were in similar positions and they loved the idea.
“I was getting comments like ‘that’s such a great idea’, ‘you are so creative’, ‘can you share it with me?’.
“So, eventually this list of 37 fun play ideas turned into me writing my book, 365 Ways to Play.”
The business idea for Chronicles of Play soon followed and Erica began sharing her ideas on an Instagram page and website.
It’s what she describes as “a teacher mum of two playing, learning and adventuring with her kids” without the filtered pictures or perfectly edited videos.
Her aim is to show parents that play time can be easy and they don’t need to spend hours upon hours playing with dolls, building Lego towers or creating arts and crafts with paint and glitter.
“I also know that as a new parent we are bombarded with incredible Instagram pages with perfect play rooms and amazing wooden toys.
“They look lovely but they can be expensive and when families have gone down to one wage, those toy purchases are just not sustainable.
“I want to show parents that we can find simple ways to play with our children that are, more often than not, things we are already doing in our day-to-day lives.
“Sometimes I think we need to take some advice from Mary Poppins and think outside the box and just like she says ‘snap and the job’s a game’.
“I also want to share that the resources we need for many play activities are things we already have in our homes.”
Erica says play is vital to a child’s develop for numerous reasons.
“Our creative abilities are at their peak in our toddler and pre-primary years but once we reach primary school they quickly start to plummet.
“We are told what colour things should be and how something ‘should’ look and so our abilities to come up with new creative ideas start to be less valued.
“Engaging in play develops some skills that we need right across all of our lives.
“To hold a pencil to write we need fine motor skills, to solve mathematical equations we need to have problem solving abilities, to engage in discussions on important topics we need a well-rounded vocabulary, to make connections during reading lessons, we need knowledge of the world around us.
“Each and every one of these skills can be first developed through play before we even complete our first year on Earth.
“Maria Montessori, who had an incredible impact on the world of education, once said ‘play is the work of the child’ and I wholeheartedly agree with this.”
Erica says some of her most popular play activities are those for children between three and nine months.
“I think this is because so many parents with children this age are a little lost. They need more than tummy time but they can’t quite get up and walk or follow enough instructions to engage in a ‘game’.”
Another popular idea is her chalk paint recipe.
It involves simply crushing some chalk and adding a little water until it become a paste like consistency. Then children can paint on glass, cardboard and driveways.
Erica’s book, 365 Ways to Play provides a resource of 365 play activities, 27 recipes and 24 play instruction cards.
It is presented in the form of a calendar, with each page containing the perfect amount of activities to fill a month.
They include indoor and outdoor play, a book of the month, an activity that matches the book, play activities for special events, using knowledge of a well-loved character and engaging in an occupation, and much more.
“I have also tried to include some learning activities, something to boost language – a conversation starter and something that is significant to that particular month,” Erica says.
“365 Ways to Play is really accessible for all ages, some of the activities just need to be adapted slightly for the age of your child.”