If you’re anything like me you’ve been amazed at many 2 year old experts and their apparent breadth of knowledge on a topic. A variety of different things might interest young children, toddlers and/or preschoolers. However, their brains are hard-wired to focus on only a few items of interest. This will change later on as their brains continue to develop to allow for a wider range of topics.
Besides that physiological reason, fixating on one interest gives children a sense of control. They become so enamored with a topic they learn everything they can about it; which, in turn, can be calming and comforting to them. The typical toddler or preschooler has a lot of change to accommodate. They might have to adjust to:
• A new baby on the way;
• Moving to different house;
• Graduating from a crib to a big-kid bed; or
• A combination of some or all of the above!
PLAYING with the familiar is a way for them to find stability and routine.
Past, Present: Living or Not
Maybe your kiddo is wild about dogs or dinosaurs or trains. My grandbubs are crazed about ‘Things That GO!’ If it’s got an engine, it’s awesome. I experienced this expertise-phenomena (some would say obsession) with some of my preschoolers too. I vividly remember one little gal in particular. She loved horses. She knew all kinds of things about horses. For example, she knew the names of various breeds and what set them apart. She knew how horses behaved. In fact she would often become a horse! She would trot, prance and gallop about—even pretending to rear up on her hind legs. Her whinny was very convincing AND, included on her Christmas list, a salt lick!
You know you’re a grandma (or preschool teacher) if you get as excited as 2 year old experts would be when coming upon working trucks. That was exactly what happened out on my walk. I chatted with the crew, telling them how my grandbubs love trucks. To document my find I whipped out my phone to take some pictures. The only thing better: Having my grandbubs with me to get an up-close and personal!
Make Use of It
You can take advantage of your kiddo’s fascination with dogs (or dinosaurs or trains) by using it as a springboard for other activities. I draw in other types of PLAY (which really means LEARNING) by using trucks for my theme. We snuggle up and READ books about trucks. One of the first books was The Little Blue Truck series. This series offers up a great way to talk about turn-taking, kindness and teamwork—a lot of social skills one might not associate with trucks!
Go into creative arts using trucks (and/or cars) and making tracks while painting. Science comes into the mix if you include more than 1 color of paint. Your kidlet will literally be able to see colors mix to form another color right before their eyes.
Last, but certainly not least, engineering principles come about heuristically when trucks are added to block PLAY. Creating roads, bridges, and/or ramps and insuring everything remains stable under the force of gravity and the weight of and movement of trucks is no small feat. They learn by trial and error; but most importantly hands-on! Doing so gives them a visceral understanding of concepts they’ll learn about logically later.
Block PLAY (with added trucks) is a really good example of how hands-on PLAY supports children’s cognitive development. Young children are concrete thinkers. They’re focused on the present, in physical objects and tangible facts. Hands-on PLAY builds a child’s foundation of experiential knowledge and acts as a scaffold to more abstract thinking.
Grandchildren imagine certain things will always remain the same when they visit their grandparents. I kind of like that kind of continuity. So when my grandbubs come over I make sure to set up PLAY areas. They may be the truck experts, but I’m always looking for new truck-theme books to add to my library; puzzles to put out and accessories to add to block or sensory PLAY. For me, I want them to associate their visits, their time with me with PLAY!
One of my newest books…
I hope YOU and YOURS also look to me for PLAY…
Yours in PLAY!
ps. If you’ve got grandbabies visiting from out of state read here for some tips!