Play-At-Home: The Power of Play During Quarantine

Nora Hedgecock, OTR/L - April 17, 2020

Remember being kids and making games out of nothing? I have vivid childhood memories of making “fairy soup” for hours by myself in the backyard using a bucket, the hose, and a mixture of rocks, flowers, and sticks. In today’s times, our kids have access to so many toys and different technologies that a lot of this simple play, that has SO much to give, has been lost.

Play is so much more than entertainment. Through play, children get sensory information from their environment that is critical to motor, cognitive, and emotional development. One silver lining to the current quarantine is that it provides an invaluable opportunity to take it back to basics and help our little ones learn and grow through play at home.

Children do not need expensive or fancy toys to play. In fact, simple, everyday objects often allow children to use their creativity and imagination more, which is more beneficial for their development.

There are tons of items you’re likely to already have lying around that are great for encouraging imaginary play! Don’t worry about what your child will do with them, they’ll likely surprise with all their ideas of what these simple items can become.  A few ideas:

  • Empty cardboard boxes can become castles, cars, and spaceships
  • Blankets, towels, and bed sheets can become magic carpets, wings, and forts
  • Laundry baskets can become scooters and boats
  • Ropes can be used to pull themselves across an ocean while sitting on a pillowcase
  • Pillows, couch cushions, or pieces of foam padding can become lily pads, bridges, and towers
  • Bubble wrap can become space boots and roads
  • Pots, pans, and buckets can become drums, hats, and fish tanks
  • Explore the great outdoors! If you have access to an outdoor space, there are endless opportunities for games full of imagination, silliness, and sensory input, which can be incredible tools to lift spirits and reset the mind (not only for our kiddos but for us too!)

Set up an environment with a few simple items and follow your child’s lead! The end product is not important. The process of creating a game, figuring out how to set it up and move through the environment is where the real magic happens! Kids with sensory processing difficulties sometimes have trouble figuring out how to play with the things around them – instead of telling your child how they can play, show them how you would use a certain item or move your body. Seeing you will allow them to imitate your actions and may help them think of new ways to play with the same item. 

We are thinking of you all and can’t wait for the days when we can play together again!