4 Tips to Create a Play Space for Your Toddler

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Play is a child’s work.

Hearing this from Messy Baby Play teacher Ms. Joey Santos, a mental image of a baby with a tie clocking in to an employee time clock popped up. This image isn’t far from the truth because the family is a social enterprise for human development. And as a social enterprise, it is the toddler’s business to learn how to be a productive person through play.

The Importance of Play

This is because the activity of play teaches cognitive, communicative, social, gross motor, and fine motor skills by practical use of the five senses. As Teacher Joey stresses, play develops their heart, head, and hands to practice mindful sensitivity to their environment. As a result, children research, learn and grow into creative and resilient adults who can properly navigate through life. It is our job as parents and CEOs of the home to create the optimal “work” place for them whether it be a one-bedroom apartment or a mansion. So what are the ergonomics of an efficient play space?

Check out Messy Baby Play’s Top 4 Tips to make your child the Toddler of the Month at home:

1) Establish the time and space for a play lab.

Play is an explorative learning experience. Your child’s job is to be a little mad scientist who needs a place for research. As any tiny researcher knows, it is inevitable that things will either spill, get sticky or explode. Thus, it is best to define the proper space for them to make a mess. Experiments become controlled within a specific area rather than the whole house. You control the chaos rather than it controlling you. The area can be as big as a small table and your kid learns how to be responsible within a given set of rules.

As an office, there needs to be working hours. As their managers, we must honor it too. We shouldn’t suddenly whisk them away out of their play time. Teacher Joey compares it to your boss rudely grabbing your laptop as you are writing your report. Instead, we should give them ample time to pack and clean their stuff before taking them to the next activity. With this example, they learn how to respect the space and time of others.

2) The play lab needs to be a child-directed sensory experience.

Just like adults, children learn best on their own. They cannot be coerced into activities because play should be a self-propelled and self-rewarding experience. At Messy Baby Play, their program inspires play through sensory integrative bins. Each bin engages kids with 2-3 materials that spark their sense of touch, sight, smell, hearing, and even taste. The materials can involve dough, sponges, non-toxic paint and noodles in learning the alphabet or how to count. You can even use bubble wrap!

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Photo above. Here’s a Messy Baby Play sensory bin inspired by Dr. Seuss: Thing 1 and Thing 2’s wild hair with vermicelli noodles and sponges.

3) The play lab needs to be focused and tidy.

As a tidy space, toys need to be kept as not to overwhelm the child. According to Messy Baby Play co-founder Sharlyn Javellana Nadal, it is difficult for a child to play if there are too many options sprawled out. It is best to have a few toys outside to teach focus. And as a parenting tip, toys are out of sight and out of mind for toddlers. Last week’s forgotten toy of the week can appear brand new again if taken out after a long period in storage. Thus, it takes out the need to buy a new toy and helps your child practice gratitude.

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4) The play lab needs a playful, creative and mindful manager.

As parents, we need to be advocates for play. Kids will love to play when they see us having fun with them. Besides, we reap the benefits of play too. First, we develop our own creativity by making toys for our kids such as a themed sensory play bin that expresses our own personality. Second, we bond and get to know our kids better. We learn about what sparks joy in them as they develop their character. Third, we learn how to be mindful by letting our children be. We shouldn’t be upset when they don’t like the toy or the play bin we designed. We should appreciate how they are growing to be their own person. And fourth, play is a natural way to destress. Play gets us to move and physically release the stresses of life with our family.

When we let it, (and we should!) play can spark just as much joy for us as it does for our kids!

We are proud to have Messy Baby Play as one of our Mommy Mundo World Kids Play Area partners. Bond with your child and experience Messy Baby Play on February 16-17 at The Fifth at Rockwell, Makati!

Messy Baby Play is a themed sensory play program by Marielle Nadal Reyes, Sharlyn Javellana Nadal, and Joey Santos. The program began as a way to make a space for Marielle and Sharlyn’s kids to have sensory play dates. They learned that these play dates also gave them a venue to pause and reconnect with fellow parents. Learn more about the program dates for Messy Baby Play on Facebook and Instagram at @messybabyplay.

About the Contributor

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Jan Vincent Ong is an Advocacy and Flow consultant for the Philippine Pediatric Society, the national organization for pediatricians. He teaches mental wellness through the physiological and psychosocial benefits of Play. After work, he practices play like a big kid through improvisational theater, creating art for kids and yoga. You can email him at jvincentsong@gmail.com.