Understanding Play Series Part 2: What is Object Play?

Understanding Play Series Part 2: What is Object Play?

Our first understanding play post was all about social play. Today, we’ll take a different angle into the worlds of make believe, development, and exploration, and it’s called object play. This style of play can include playing with all types of toys, from baby rattles to blocks, dolls, toy cars, and more. It can also include play with household objects. We’ll dive into the benefits of object play, as well as tips and ideas for all ages in the post below.

What Are the Benefits of Object Play?

Object play opens doors for children of all ages. From the very early days, it serves as a way to understand the world around them. Objects that are felt by babies help them understand textures, spatial awareness, colors, and more. 

As kids grow, object play continues to strengthen physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. It quite literally is the work of the child!

Tips to Help Your Child Engage in Object Play

It’s important to not only provide objects to play with, but also independent time to explore them. Chances are, when your children are looking for something to do in their free time, toys will draw them in. But if your little one struggles to get started with object play, you could try:

  • Setting up an “invitation to play,” by creating a scene of toys, leaving out an unfinished puzzle, or building a tower halfway and leaving the rest of the pieces out for your child to discover.
  • Playing with them for a while, and letting them know you’ll be back after you finish the dishes, or perform another household task, while they keep playing.
  • Rotating toys, so they are excited by items they haven;t seen for a while.

Object Play Ideas for Kids of All Ages

Babies (0-12 months): Infants learn about the world around them through their mouths and hands. Provide items of various textures early on. Some of our favorite toys for this age group include:

Toddlers (1-3 years): Many types of toys are great for this age, but household goods can be just as fun! Consider letting your toddler explore music with metal pots and wooden spoons, or provide empty containers to proactive opening and closing.

A few toys that are always a hit in this age range include blocks, balls, toy cars, and puzzles.

Preschoolers (3-5 years): Object play often turns into dramatic play at this age, with kitchen sets, dolls, vehicles, and more. It can also strengthen skills, through building toys, for example.

Some common favorites include:

And for a few non-toy ideas, consider dressing up in old halloween costumes or in family members’ clothing and shoes! Or stack everyday items into tall towers — shoe boxes, soup cans, and cups could all work.

School Age (6-12 years): Object play is essential even as kids grow out of the toys that they couldn’t get enough of in their younger years. Some good options for this age group include LEGO, Magna-Tiles, and Fidget Toys. Kids may also enjoy playing with household goods, like creating art from recycling or making elaborate pretend play situations with items around the home — the floor is lava with couch cushions, anyone??

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