Safe To Play
by Colleen Moulding
In an ideal world we would all love our children to play in a large sunny garden with a swing, a sandpit and a treehouse. Sadly reality often paints a different picture. High rise flats, postage stamp gardens and rainy days can mean finding somewhere safe for children to play is often a major problem for Mum. Yet somewhere to run around and let off steam is a real need for children.
If the weather is fine, a ball, a frisbee or a kite and a safe open space are all that's needed, although you can double the fun by taking a friend and a picnic too, but for a large part of the year a hall is the best alternative.
Firstly, check out what is on offer in your area. Community centre or church hall notice boards are often a good starting point as Mother and Toddler groups, playgroups and Bumps and Babes clubs advertise there and are usually pleased to welcome new members. Sports centres are also worth investigating. As well as pool fun for all ages, there are often skating and dancing sessions and sometimes ball pools and soft play areas.
Exercising at home can be fun too. Stretching like a cat, prowling like a lion, walking like a monkey and wriggling like a snake won't take up much space, yet will have little ones giggling in no time.
Flexibility is the key word to finding space to play within the home. A little used dining room or large hall can be a daily used playroom with just a little rearranging and covering of furniture. Many garages, first cleared and checked very carefully for sharp tools and dangerous car or garden chemicals, can do double duty as bike riding space for toddlers and somewhere to paint or play with sand on wet days. You can put up some of their pictures to cheer the place up a bit and paint the floor with garage floor paint if dust is a problem. It is sometimes possible to fence in a drive or car standing to give a really useful amount of skipping, riding and ball bouncing space.
Some friends of ours, desperate for play space for their two girls actually moved out of their large bedroom and into a neatly fitted out boxroom so that the children had a large nursery cum playroom where games could be left to return to and friends entertained, and now , one year on, vote it a much better use of their limited space than the original conventional layout.
This can also be worth considering when two young children have a bedroom each. Would they be happier sleeping in together for a few years with their very own playroom next door?
Using the furniture as part of an obstacle course can be great fun on a rainy afternoon. Use cushions as stepping stones and a rug or duvet to scramble under. Make a string or wool jump tied between two chairs. Or a bed can become a pirate ship with pillow "islands" in a stormy sea leading to a larger duvet "treasure island".
Dens under tables or behind sofas will never be short of a resident, especially if you add a torch, comics and a few toys too, yet are easily made by throwing a duvet or large sheet over a table or the backs of chairs.
A smooth shelf or plank of wood makes an indoor slide if placed carefully on a sofa or the bottom few steps of the stairs with a pillow at the bottom.
A useful addition to most children's bedrooms is a piece of hardboard cut approximately to the size of the bed (most diy stores will do this for you for a small fee) giving a large flat surface which is ideal for laying out towns or train sets, doing puzzles or playing with all those toys that just won't go along properly on the carpet. The added bonus is that the board should slide away neatly under the bed when the games are over.
Colleen Moulding 1999
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