Setting up an invitation to play for my kids is fun, it can be a great learning tool, and it encourages independent play, but if it takes too long to organise then it kinda defeats the purpose.
If I’m after a little time to do other things I want to set up an activity that is quick and easy. A fun activity does not have to be complicated!
One of the best ‘time smart’ ways to offer an activity is to use one basic set up and just vary how it is used over time. Last week we used four recycled tubs and came up with three (plus!) easy ways to play.
This simple set up starts with just four recycled plastic tub. We used four 1 litre ice cream containers (a great excuse to eat more ice cream), but you could use anything you have on hand.
I taped the tubs together with some masking tape and set them up on a large plastic tray. You can skip the tray if you don’t have one, but it helps contain the mess and makes the whole set up easy to move around.
That’s the basic set up… now here are three easy ways to play with it.
Small World Play
Imaginative play keeps my five year old busy for a long, long time.
Pick a theme that your child is interested in, add some figurines and bits and pieces to the tubs and let their imaginations do the rest.
Noah decided on polar bears for this set up, so I collected a few other cold, snowy, arctic animals and set up this small world.
We put white pebbles and penguins in one tub, water and sea creatures in the next one, wheat and seals in the next (you could use sand), and ice cubes and polar bears in the last tub.
The four tubs gave each animal their own home, and allowed me to offer water along with the other items without too much mess.
We also used the same set up to create a great farm, with grass in one tub for the cows, mud for the pigs, water for the ducks and wheat for the chickens.
Noah is still practicing his scissor skills and man does that boy like to cut!
Use the tubs to offer different things to cut and to contain the mess a little!
We filled the tubs with small pieces of thin cardboard (it’s not floppy like paper so easy for little hands to cut), pictures from magazines and old birthday cards, plastic straws (great for snipping off little bits), and some paper with simple lines drawn on them to cut along.
It’s not just my five year old who is drawn to sensory play. My big kids came home from school today and all of them had their hands in the tub.
We were given some bags of dried chick peas, wheat, pop corn and rice that were no longer fit for eating, so we died some of it bright colours and put a different item in each tub along with some recycled laundry detergent scoops and some measuring cups.
We call this activity ‘mix and mess’ but there isn’t actually much mess. The big tray under the tub catches most of the stray items, and a dust pan and broom or vacuum gets the rest, and Noah is very good at using both!
Noah measured out ingredients for potions, mixed up colours and items, and let it all run through his fingers enjoying the sensory input.
We’ve had this simple four tub set up in the corner of our family room for more than a week now and the kids have all enjoyed pottering and playing. When one item seems to be done with, I just put something new in the tubs.
It’s simple, easy to set up, low mess, and engaging, a perfectly easy invitation to play.
What would your kids love to play with in this simple four tub set up?
Are you looking for more simple play ideas? Try one of these…