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When it comes to exploratory play, you don’t need fancy toys, games or technology. All our kids are all equipped with a wonderful ability…. their imagination. While the big toy companies are always bombarding us with the latest and greatest toys on the market, you can, in fact, have more fun and spend some rewarding time with your kids playing with everyday household items.
My daughter has just turned 2 years old and we are starting to have a lot of fun, using items around the house for exploratory play. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cardboard box, a sheet draped over some chairs or dressing up in some fancy clothes, we have a ball taking these household object and letting our imagination run wild.
I can’t remember for how long she has owned a little backpack, but recently she has started to love wearing and playing with it. Backpacks are actually great for exploratory play, and my daughter feels like a grown up wearing it. She loves to carry items in it and recently we’re having a lot of fun creating our own little backpack games.
Here are some of our favorite games that we’re playing at the moment with her backpack to encourage exploratory play.
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Here anything goes! A backpack is a wonderful tool to let your imagination run wild, we love strapping into our backs and seeing where it takes us. Once the backpack is on we might be transformed into a turtle who moves around slowly on the ground. Or maybe an astronaut who can moonwalk around the kitchen. Some days it is a jet pack propelling us fast around the room and other times it is a ………….. We take turns in imagining the scenario, and always remember that there are no wrong answers in creativity while using exploratory play.
A backpack is fantastic for pretend play. This is where we put our bag on and go places and get stuff done! Today we pretended we were big kids and headed off to living room ‘school’. We sometimes go on a ‘hike’ up our stairs and around the backyard. Tomorrow we are going to dress up and head to work (I wonder what occupations she might designate to us?). Pretend play helps children to better understand social roles and to practice skills such as turn taking and responsibility.
Just like we touched on with some of our pretend play games, a backpack can be a great tool to help your kids be more active. A great fun way to spend time outdoors it to pack your bags and head off. We’re often going for a walk or a picnic to the park. Kids love being able to pack their own backpack with their own items. What better way to do this than to head off together on an adventure? My daughter lets me know when she feels like an adventure by packing her backpack and bringing it to me. While we are out she enjoys the benefits of being in nature, getting exercise and building her skills and knowledge.
A backpack can be great for sensory play. Sometimes we go on a sensory expedition! We go outside and mark items off our sensory checklist, putting each item (or treasure!) into the backpack. Something rough, something smooth, something cold, something smelly, something pretty, something soft…. and the list goes on. When we bring the treasures home we examine each one, using our senses.
Here’s a list we created to help get you started.
- Dry leaf
- Broken stick
- Leaf from a spiky plant
- Leaf from a soft plant
- Small twig
- Round rock
- Rough rock
Movement (motor) play
Motor play is something you’ll find that your kids will do with their backpack as soon as they get it. It could be the gross motor activities of wearing and walking around with the bag or the fine motor activities of playing and using all the zips and tags. I know at various stages my daughter has loved zippers. If she sees one on a jumper or a bag she is all over it. Your backpack might also have buttons, Velcro and other features to challenge the motor skills and introduce them to exploratory play. The backpack will also challenge your child’s sense of balance and proprioception.
When we started this post we really had the goal of just highlighting that you don’t need fancy toys, games or screens to have a lot of fun with your kids. There are a huge amount of everyday items from around the house that can be used to both have fun and help your kids grow. When you add a little imagination you can take a simple item like a backpack and get active while also spending some quality time with your kids.
Meet Guest Blogger Liam Gibson
How long have you been blogging for?
I’ve been blogging for almost 2 ½ years now. I have 2 blogs, one is all about child development called gooeybrains.com which I created with my wife. It has been great in combining my love of being a dad, my wife’s psychology background, and my profession in Design. The other blog is a brand new blog all about backpacks which is about my search for the ultimate backpack.
What kind of articles do you post and why?
On gooeybrains, we take the latest research in child development and break it down to make It accessible and relatable for everyone. On The Ultimate Backpack blog I write about the design elements of backpacks and I get to apply all of my nerdy design training while helping people to find the ultimate backpack for their needs. On this blog, I hope to provide people with all of the information that I have wanted to know when trying to buy a backpack online.
Tell me a little about you as a person.
Right now I’m a part-time stay at home dad and love every minute of it. I treasure being able to be there to see my daughter grow up and learn. I’m also an Industrial Designer by trade and I guess that was one of the big factors in starting TheUltimateBackpack.
What’s one crazy or unique thing about you?
I’m a really active person and love getting outdoors to explore and train. I never imagined that I would ever be a writer, and to be honest writing is one of those things that I would actively avoid in my school years! It’s a bit of a crazy thing to start a backpack or child development website but I guess when you combine my passions of sports and adventure, parenting, and design you can see why I’m right into that sort of stuff now and super motivated.
Wednesday 8th of August 2018
Hi. That's great idea. I love the way to use a backpack especially Adventure/outdoor play. It would be very helpful to me to take my kid outside for more experiences. I'm so excited in making a next trip with my kid. I'm thinking to prepare a lot of items. Could you give me suggestion how to choose best one? By the way, I intend to do as you suggested above. Thank you a lot for a great idea.
Wednesday 8th of August 2018
Hi Issie, so glad you love the idea! There's not too much to pack for toddlers for a trip except the usual every day items, like lots of extra clothes! Good luck on your trip!
Wednesday 25th of July 2018
Sensory play is such a great way to use a backpack.
Monday 23rd of July 2018
These are cute ideas! :) Such great ways to encourage imaginative play and start the ball rolling. Im sure my kids would run with these ideas!!!
Monday 23rd of July 2018
What a great way to have an adventure! I’ll have to pass this post along to one of my best friends. Her son loves being outside and exploring, so he’d love a sensory treasure hunt.
Monday 23rd of July 2018
Great ideas! I love being thoughtful and thorough with what you already have instead of always looking for something new. Love that the backpack itself is part of the imaginative "costume"!