Put Play in Your Day with Play Coach Claire Russell
Wonderful Claire Russell, creator of playHOORAY! is the Play Coach for parents. I interviewed her on my podcast in season 2 and wanted to share some of the brilliant ideas, tips and advice that she shared with us. She’s a Mummy of two young boys, an ex-teacher and all-round superwoman! If you don’t already, do follow her on Instagram here, where she shares loads of activities that you can do with babies and toddlers, with every day items found around your home.
What are your tips for juggling a business with young children?
Give yourself a break! It’s so easy top go on social media and assume that everybody has it together and the reality is that nobody does! So I’d really recommend not comparing yourself to others. If you’re having one of those days where you’re feeling a bit low, social media is not the place to go! Get some fresh air and some water make such a difference – get outside, give the kids an early bath and it can make the world of difference.
My other tip is to put your trainers on!! I put my trainers on and wear them inside all day. I feel like, if you’ve got slippers on, you’re more likely to slouch around the house but with trainers on I just think you’re more energetic and it’s so easy to get out and be physical!
When parents are very busy and overwhelmed and want to do something fun, what would be some of your top tips to engage children without spending lots of money on new toys?
Start with asking the children what they would like to do and they will come up with some ideas that spark something off for you. Things like playing in an empty bath or under the dining room table can really engage young children! Remembering that the simple things are a really big deal for children, such as walking to watch the trains pass by or the diggers in a local building site. If it’s something that they’re interested in then they’re more likely to enjoy it and stick with it for a while!
In my book I share lots of ideas to help with this. When you’re stuck, get a book! Quite often, if we are tired, it’s the hardest time to be creative but reading a story with your child is the best thing you can do; it can spark ideas and form some wonderful bonding opportunities. It doesn’t have to be a children’s book either – a recipe book or a car book can be brilliant!
Play doesn’t come naturally to everyone and that’s ok and quite a common thing. I’d always advise parents to think about what they liked to play when they were children, as that can often bring ideas – such as football, shoe shops, dolls or tag. So go back to ‘what did I like to do when I was a child?’ and share that with your child, it will always spark some ideas.
Do you have any tips for parents with 6-12 month olds?
I know this is a tricky age and sometimes, as parents, it’s easy to think that baby’s getting bored but remembering that babies like lots of repetition – so often playing with familiar toys is really good for them, as they master different skills. Play when you’re repeating yourself can really help young babies. One of my favourite activities (especially when you want that 5 minute cup of tea!) is post-it notes! Stick them on windows, across the floor, on the sofa – babies will find them hilarious and it will encourage their movement as well as hand-eye co-ordination. They don’t leave any marks and take no time at all to set up. I’d recommend always having some to hand. This activity is also a really nice one to encourage siblings to play together and is fab when travelling, too!
How does play change from babies through to toddlers and school age?
Babies are stimulated by faces and their senses, so lots of pointing things out, talking to them all the time and introducing them to all of their senses is brilliant for their development. Babies explore the world through their mouth and I really wouldn’t worry too much about that – a lot of parents ask me how to stop it but I’d encourage you to just ensure it’s safe.
As they get older you’ll find they want to be more independent and between 1 and 2 can be a hard age! They may start to show preference to things and choose to do some activities over others. I would advise you to really go with that and don’t push things on them, but keep introducing new things to them so that they can explore. If they do have a favourite toy, let them play with it in different themes and set ups. Try not to add too much pressure to young children’s play but go with it and respect their likes and dislikes. Use lots of praise to encourage independence!