Tag Archives: Toys

No Hide & Seek

Over the years I have often told children that Hide & Seek is an outdoor game.  Yes, I personally remember enjoying many wonderful indoor games of Hide & Seek but they were held in a much larger building with multiple rooms. The confined space of our little playroom does make it difficult to play a traditional game of Hide & Seek – there are not really any good places for even a little person to hide.

My current group of preschoolers often initiate indoor games that they call ‘Hide & Seek’ but I always end up redirecting them.  The problem really is that their energy level makes their game unsuitable for our indoor space – they do not play according to traditional rules.

In their game of ‘Hide & Seek’ the three of them together choose a ‘hiding spot’.  Then two of them crawl into ‘sleeping bags’ (old pillow cases that are kept with the dress-up clothes/blankets) while the third child goes to the other side of the room, covers his eyes and counts to 10.  He then shouts ‘ready or not, here I come’, runs across the room and jumps on the two ‘hiding’ boys.  This is then followed by fits of laughter and a group decision as to who hides and who seeks for the next round.

*Sigh*.  This is not Hide & Seek.  This is rough and tumble play that they call hide & seek because they know that I will say running and jumping games are outdoor games.  If I say Hide & Seek is an outdoor game they will argue – and they will be correct – Hide & Seek can be played indoors – but their game cannot even if they call it Hide & Seek.

So why won’t I allow this game?  It is a cooperative game and the three playing are in agreement – for now – but there are other, smaller children who are not.  They do occasionally try to join, or just get in the way and someone always gets hurt.  I will allow this type of play outdoors – but there is simply not enough space indoors for the reward to outweigh the risk.

So, I suggested that they could take turns hiding a small toy instead – there are many places to hide small toys. They thought this was a terrific  idea and immediately chose one of the six stuffed squirrels.  I was somewhat concerned that this would cause confusion if someone ‘found’ one of the five squirrels that were not hidden but that wasn’t a problem.

The real problem was that none of the boys  could resist telling the others where the squirrel was hidden.  Two would sit in the corner and cover their eyes while the third hid the squirrel.  Then as soon as the two seekers stood up to search the hider would say “It’s over there” and point to the hiding spot. The other two would race to the location and whomever grabbed the squirrel first would be the hider – and would hide the squirrel in exactly the same spot that it was hidden in before round after round after round. *sigh*

So, I suggested that I should be the hider and all of them could be the seekers – I also chose to hide a small stuffed bear that wasn’t normally in the playroom.  They covered their eyes and giggled while I hid the bear.  When I said it was hidden they came out of the corner and bounced around asking me where it was.  I told them to look for it.  After searching for nearly a minute they began lamenting “This is so hard”.

I smiled and said. “This is Hide and Seek – indoor style”.  The excitement when they did actually find the bear was priceless. 🙂 This is now their favourite game.  Sometimes they become engaged in other activities before the bear gets found.  If at any point I need to redirect their behaviour then all I have to do is ask if they’ve found the bear yet and they all begin searching again.

Hide and Seek might be my favourite game too.

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Delivery

I ordered something and knew it would be arriving soon.  I told the children something new was coming – they were very excited.  “What is it?”  “I’m not telling, it is a surprise.”

It arrived on Monday – at nap time as usual – I’m fairly certain that all couriers are required to make daycare deliveries at nap time and they get a bonus if they kick the door at the same time as they ring the doorbell… *sigh*

I decided to wait to introduce the new items – but the packaging was fun for day one;

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Making a ‘sidewalk’.

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‘Crinkles’ when we walk on it;

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Plenty of after nap fun with just the packaging;

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Day two – let’s open the little boxes that came in the big box;

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What are these?

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Let’s sort them;

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They’re called ‘Balance Pods’ – Can you stand on them?

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Is it easier or harder if they are upside down?

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Maybe we should hold hands;

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Even the baby wants to try;

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Let’s see if we can sit on them;

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Or walk;

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So many new things to try – this is only the beginning;

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Llamas!

It was about 10 years ago when ‘The Llama Thing’ started.  On my ‘old website’ I had written a bit about the children’s interest in llamas, this is an excerpt;

At one time the school age children I had in care became obsessed with llamas.   Originally I think they just liked the way the word “llama” sounded and they liked to say it over and over.  We started collecting pictures of llamas to display around the house.  The children searched the internet and books for information on llamas – where they came from, what they eat, and how to care for them.  They found sites where you could purchase llamas and decided they wanted a llama for a pet.  When I pointed out that we couldn’t keep a llama in the city they wanted to know “why” and set out to find the answer. 

They used their new found knowledge and imaginations to write stories about and build models of “Llamaland”.  They played indoor & outdoor llama games like “Llamas From Space” and “Spy Llama”.

The preschool children never really caught on to the llama thing but because one of our llama poems included other animals too, the younger children developed an interest in rabbits.  We read rabbit books and made rabbit crafts. I set out pop-up houses and tunnels and they spent hours every day hopping about building burrows and dens.   They all became carrot lovers — kids may hate vegetables but rabbits love them!

The llama obsession lasted about two months – I call it an obsession because during that time my school-age children had ZERO other interests.  Some of the parents lamented “When will this llama thing end?”  Listening to the never-ending Llama Song may not or may not have helped depending on which side of the llama fence you were on.

The llama obsession did eventually end but this particular group of children (and I) continued to love llamas.  Years later there was a brief llama resurgence when a new group of children discovered the llama books by Anna Dewdney.  However, this group of children didn’t have much interest in llamas beyond the books.  I still find llamas fascinating and continue to seek out llama stuff.

I was thrilled to discover that Folkmanis had alpaca puppets – they may consider them to be alpacas but for us they are llamas because alpaca is not nearly as fun to say.  🙂 I have bought both the stage puppet (this one does look more like an alpaca) and the hand puppet (definitely a llama).

The children have named the hand puppet ‘Mortimer’ but rarely use his name because ‘llama’ is so much more fun to say.  The stage puppet is larger so therefore always just gets called ‘Mama llama’.  Once, just once, I played the Llama Song video while the children were waiting for lunch to get dished up.  Yes, I can see that becoming an addiction very quickly with this group too.  I think we’ll stick to the puppets and books instead.

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Mine!

Anyone who has a toddler should expect to hear them screech ‘Mine!’ many, many times.  It’s normal. Working with a group of toddlers it is a regular occurrence to which I am accustomed.  For months now there has been an interesting daily ‘dispute’ between two of my toddlers – I will call them Bunny and Bear for this post.

It started with the felt ice cream cones.  Bunny claimed the pink one and always had to have it nearby when she was in the playroom.  If Bear saw the pink ice cream cone unattended he would pick it and Bunny would begin to scream.  Bunny would grab the green ice cream cone and offer to trade and Bear eagerly accepted.

Both these toddlers are completely agreeable throughout this process  but they sound very upset.  Their actions are frantic and there is near constant wailing “My ice cream! My ice cream!”  A gentle reminder to just ask and say please would usually decrease the intensity of their ‘conversation’.

However, problems arise when others in the group become involved.  The ‘Defender’ considers Bunny to be their ‘best friend’ and refuses to allow others to touch Bunny’s ice cream cone. The ‘Collector’ wants all the best toys.  Anything deemed ‘special’ by anyone else is a must-have item for the Collector.  The Collector rarely plays with any of the toys but doesn’t want anyone else to have them either.

When Bear picks up the pink ice cream cone the Defender will tackle him and try to rip the pink ice cream cone from his hand.  Bear will never release the ice cream cone to the Defender or the Collector – it ‘belongs’ to Bunny and he wants to give it to her.  Bunny is not involved in the physical battle but is wailing ‘Miiiiinnnnne‘.

The ‘Defender’ and the ‘Collector’ usually choose physical aggression instead of words – they seem to thrive on it and sometimes they even initiate it.  If a defender notices the unattended pink ice cream cone they will pick it up and not give it to Bunny.   Instead, they taunt Bear with it and the battle begins.

These daily brawls were becoming more intense and disruptive so I removed the ice cream cones from the toys available for play.  That’s when the situation became even more interesting.  On learning that the ice cream cones were ‘gone’ Bunny and Bear chose plastic doughnuts instead – strawberry for Bunny and chocolate for Bear.  Whichever one of these toddlers entered the playroom first would immediately take the two doughnuts and wait for the other toddler to arrive and then give them ‘their’ doughnut.

Likewise, the Defender and Collector continued to try to control ownership of the preferred toys.  There were only two ice cream cones but there are three donuts and there are still battles over the two ‘selected’ ones.  When the doughnuts were removed then the bubble bottles became the chosen toys. There are several bubble bottles but Bunny & Bear each have a favourite one. The battles continued.

For Bunny & Bear it’s not really about the specific toys – it’s mostly about the friendship.  As the various toys come and go the one thing that remains consistent is that there is one chosen for each of these two children.  Bunny & Bear enjoy each others company and these toys are an invitation to ‘come play with me’.

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The Collector is all about the toys and the other toddlers just get in the way.  The Collector is most content when playing independently – with ALL the toys.  The Defender is focused on ownership too but their most desired ‘possession’ is power.

I’ve been working on this post on and off for a few weeks now and I struggled with how to end it.  That is probably because the ‘situation’ hasn’t ended.  This isn’t a ‘we had a problem and this was how we fixed it’ post.  It is my observation of one small part of the daily interactions within this group of toddlers.

The conflicts will continue and I will continue to observe.  I will step in to redirect behaviour that may be dangerous.  I will experiment with the room arrangement and toy selection.  I will offer to mediate disputes if required but mostly I will allow the toddlers to solve their own problems.  The conflicts are a normal – a necessary part of toddler development.  The process of learning social skills to interact with others and make friends.

Searching

Even the youngest children quickly learn where their favourite toys are located in the playroom.  If they need a tool they head over to the workshop area.  When they want to join the others in a song they know where to look to see which musical instruments are available.  They know which shelf in the housekeeping area has the plates and bowls and which bin has the fruit.  The fact that I organize the play food according to food groups is a playful learning opportunity.

Personally I enjoy arranging items according to size, type, color etc.  When I’m in the playroom with the children I will automatically sort and organize toys.  I put the farm animals on the shelf according to family groups;

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I do encourage all the children to put away toys when they are finished using them however grouping them is not a requirement.  Some of the children also like to arrange toys as they play or when they clean up.  Others will simply place them in the general area where they belong but find sorting them is too much of a chore.  That’s fine – it gives the rest of us something to do later if we get bored. 😉

The main reason I like to organize the shelves is so a quick scan of an shelf will reveal if all the toys are accounted for or if one is missing. If one is missing we can look for it right away – the less time it has been missing the more likely we are to easily find it.  This is especially important for the toddlers in particular.

Many of the toddlers have favorite toys that they like to carry at all times.  The pink ice cream cone, the rice bag, and the stuffed unicorn are the current favorites – if one of them is missing there will be meltdowns if we don’t find it.  Sadly some of the older children seem to find it amusing to occasionally hide these toys and ‘watch the show’.  Grrr.

It is rare that a toy is missing and cannot be found but occasionally it does happen.  The little stuffed swan from the Ikea farm has been missing for months.  I have an idea which four legged, stuffed toy loving, feline may have absconded with that particular item during a nocturnal hunting expedition.  Taken beyond the confines of the playroom there is little chance we will ever find it.

One mysterious disappearance that baffles me is the plastic heart shaped container.  It was the beginning of February that I put two of these containers in the playroom.  By 7:15 Monday morning one of the containers was missing – two lids and one container were in plain sight near the shelf where they belong but the second container was gone.

15-03-search02 It is not a particularly small container – at a little over three inches wide it is bigger than many of the cups and bowls.  Still, after many hours of searching over the past eight weeks we have never found it.  I think the children have given up but on weekends, as I clean, organize, and rotate the toys in the playroom sometimes I can’t resist searching some more…

Ponies!

I was doing some Christmas shopping at Costco when I saw them – ponies!  Actually, the label says ‘rocking horse’ but I like to call them ponies – I bought two.  They were not on my shopping list but I couldn’t resist – they were only $20 each!

Now I will admit they ticked a few boxes on my ‘I don’t like’ list.

  • They were fairly large toys and I have a limited amount of space.
  • They have batteries and make noise.  I prefer ‘use your imagination’ toys over ’cause and effect’ toys.
  • They have some limitation for age/size of children which may cause frustration for the children and me.

But they were so cute I just couldn’t resist.  I bought two because one would definitely not be enough but I don’t have space for a whole herd. Look at them, pictured here with some of my Ikea stuffies;

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I debated about introducing the new toys during the Christmas break when there were fewer children here but I decided to wait until everyone returned.  That way all the children could make discoveries together instead of the returning children being ‘instructed’ by the ones who had already had two weeks with the new toys.  Besides, there was something I had to do to the ponies first…

I had to put stops on them so they wouldn’t rock.

I know, some of you are thinking ‘Why do you want rocking horses that don’t rock?’  The answer to that is fairly simple, hence the name change – I wanted ‘ponies’ not ‘rocking horses’.  After my ‘Ooooh, they’re so cute!’ reaction my next thought was how many little toes would be squished under the moving base.

So on Monday the children got to meet our new, non-rocking ponies.  The early arrivals were thrilled.  After nearly an hour of pony play they still hadn’t yet discovered the sound/action buttons – so I showed them.  When you squeeze the pony’s ear you hear neighs and galloping hooves and the pony’s mouth opens and closes and his tail wags.

The children each tried the button once and then went back to their original – before my interruption – quiet pony play.  The third child to arrive was also more interested in the ponies than the pony noise/action.  It was a different story once children four and five arrived.  These two refuse to allow the ponies to be silent – ever!

Even when they are not playing with the ponies, if the noise stops they drop whatever they are playing with and run over to press the button again. For me, this is the biggest problem with the battery operated aspect of these and other similar toys. They don’t enhance the play value of the toy – they prevent the children from fully engaging in play.  They are a distraction.

I usually remove the batteries from new toys before I introduce them to the play space.  The lack of batteries isn’t missed if they didn’t know it existed.  Occasionally I leave batteries in toys – like I did with the ponies.  However, I rarely replace them when they die.  The pony noises are definitely not a benefit but I do like the pony actions.  In fact, feeding the ponies is one of the children’s favourite activities;

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Sure, the children could pretend to feed the ponies even if the pony’s mouth didn’t open and close but there is an incredible amount of cooperation and problem solving as the children work together to find items that fit in the pony’s mouth and stay there as he ‘chews’.

The saddle stirrups have caused some problems – rider’s feet sometimes get stuck in them making a safe dismount difficult.  I’ve tucked the stirrups up under the saddle but I’ll probably end up cutting them off completely.

The other issue we’ve had with the ponies comes after daycare closes and it is dark and quiet in the playroom.  That is when hunter cat stalks her prey – and ponies are one of her favourites.  So, when play is done for the day the ponies are safely stabled like this;

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Everybody loves ponies.

Favourite Things

I always find it interesting when an old favourite toy from the play room becomes popular with a new group of children. Many of the toys once belonged to my own children and are no longer available in stores.  There are no commercials on TV to entice the children to want to play with these toys.

With a mixed age group in Family Childcare often the younger children develop a preference for certain toys based on their observations of the older children at play – a learned behaviour.  The younger children use the toys the same way the older children use the toys.  The toy itself is not necessarily the attraction – the younger children just want to be with/like the older ones.

There are some items that one or two children may love but others never show much interest in.  Of course, there are often items that are popular simply because someone else wants it.  These items are rarely actually ever played with – just hoarded for the sole purpose of being in control.

Some toys are loved by many of the children – different groups, various ages, over long periods of time.  These are the toys that interest me the most.  Why are they so popular?  One such toy is this little set of 25 year old blocks;

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Every time the Duplo/Mega blocks are out in the play room there will be at least one child in the group who will choose these nine little blocks every time they enter the room.  Of all the blocks in the bin the child/children prefer these ones.  Sometimes just one particular one – like ‘the puppy’ – which is the current favorite for this toddler.

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Yet many children have never even attempted to put the blocks together create the characters.  They don’t seem to care or even notice that there are three feet blocks, three body blocks and three head blocks that together can form 12 different characters.  Yet, of all the blocks in the bin these nine are almost always chosen first.  Some children never even play with any of the other blocks – just the white ones or none.

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There are other people/animal toys in the block bin and other areas in the room but they are not as popular.  There are other ‘rare’ blocks – there are only a few black or purple blocks compared to the plentiful red, yellow, blue or green ones yet only the occasional child will specifically seek out the other rare ones. There are other puzzle/matching toys throughout the playroom – they don’t engage any of the children the way these nine little white blocks do.

I regularly rotate the toys in and out of the playroom.  Two of the children in my current preschool group have never seen these blocks before and have not been influenced by the older children yet they still choose the little white blocks first.  Why?

I may never know the reason these toys are so popular.  There may be a different reason for each child.  I do know that I will continue to enjoy observing the children as they explore and make discoveries.  I will continue to wonder why.  I will continue to be amazed.