Did you know your package from Little Spoon included many ways to connect with your child, above and beyond the eating experience?
What if you opened the containers, happily offered your baby, toddler, or 2-year-old nutritious, organic food from Little Spoon — all the while chatting, cooing, and appreciating their spinach-covered cheeks — and once the contents were gone, there was more. So. Much. More.
Containers, spoons, boxes … oh my. Hours of engaging play comes in your Little Spoon order and you may not have even realized! As a lifelong early childhood educator, I tend to see the world through the eyes of young children. Woah, that fits! Oooh, that makes a cool sound. I bet that rolls.
In 2010, I created a program for children called playAGAIN. The name “playAGAIN” comes from two intertwined ideas:
1) Children love – NEED – to repeat their experiences.
2) It’s to everyone’s benefit that we find ways to reuse items (again and again) for meaningful play.
PlayAGAIN offers children the time, space, and materials to engage in open-ended, unstructured play. This supports their social/emotional wellbeing as well as their cognitive development. But the children don’t use toys or typical play items. The playAGAIN approach incorporates repurposed and recycled materials—inspiring creativity, encouraging resourcefulness, and helping families realize they can use what they already have to celebrate the joy of childhood.
It’s honestly no cliché to say the box is often of more interest to children than what’s inside! Using the Little Spoon boxes and containers, I have come up with 21 open-ended play ideas. My hope is this is just a start and you and your children arrive at many more!
Playtime Ideas with the Cardboard Tray
1. Pretend Play
Add a soft cloth to the cardboard tray and you have a baby doll bed. Or is it a vehicle? Boat, bus, train, plane … you name it. Add some stuffed animals and take them for a ride!
2. Save the Spoons
To foster fine motor development, turn the cardboard tray over and give your child the little spoons to drop through the holes of the tray (think pegs in a pegboard).
3. Make A Canvas
Use the cardboard tray to draw or decorate with tape.
4. Hide and Seek
Layout three items and then ask your child to close his eyes. Flip the cardboard tray over, tuck one of the objects underneath, open eyes, and play “guess what’s missing?”
5. A “loom” To Weave And Sew
Use yarn, ribbons, or shoelaces to lace through the spoon holes in each cardboard tray.
6. What Fits In The Holes?
Experiment with different sized kitchen utensils (spoons, whisks, chopsticks).
7. Make A Guitar
Stretch three rubber bands across the middle of the tray and strum away!
Hold the box up to your eyes, peek through the holes, and enjoy! Poke your fingers in and out of the hole and your child will giggle as she follows/ anticipates the next move!
9. Lifting the box
Try lifting the box with tongs for fun motor skill development!
10. Silly Skating
Place two boxes on the ground. Stand, putting a foot in each box, and do some skating! A silly big movement activity.
11. Long Freight Train
Line up multiple boxes creating a train. You can even add a piece of tape between each one so they stay together.
12. Rock and Roll
Hold the box by the handles, drop in a small ball (or anything that rolls), and tilt the tray back and forth – the movement is mesmerizing.
After you’ve exhausted the cardboard box ideas, it’s time to play with our little clear containers! A whole new world of wonder to explore!!
Ways to Play with Your Meal Containers
Fill each Little Spoon container with items that make different sounds (paper, keys, bells) and shake, shake, SHAKE!
2. Building Blocks
Add items of different weights, put the lids back on, and you have an assortment of building blocks to stack!
3. A Recycled Rainbow
Add water plus a different food coloring to each container, seal and allow the sun to shine through.
4. Bath Toys
Use the containers as little bath toys.
5. Floor Play
Give a whole bunch to baby on the floor and allow them to bang, swat, and manipulate.
6. Hang The Containers Above Your Baby
Use tape to hang the containers above your baby, encouraging them to reach up and pull them down. Increase the fun by adding colorful objects to the containers once they’re hung.
7. Open and Close
Spread out a plethora of clear empty containers along with lids. Toddlers love trying to fit the lid on as practicing open and shut.
8. Parking Garage
Use a sharpie to add headlights to each clear container and you have a whole array of new vehicles!
9. Finger Puppets
Use as beds for finger puppets.
When we reuse rather than just toss packaging in the recycling bin, we shift children’s focus from the abstract to the concrete, cultivating in the youngest generation a much needed and authentic respect for the environment, as well as a belief in their own creativity.
I’ve recently launched the Everyday Play Deck in collaboration with Rose & Rex to provide parents, caregivers, and children 125+ ideas for exploring play the playAGAIN way. The Everyday Play Deck is available online on Rose & Rex’s website.
The playAGAIN Everyday Play Deck by Rose & Rex
The Everyday PLAY Deck was created to introduce families to the possibility of play with repurposed materials. Each card features a repurposed item that can be used and reused; no need to buy anything special, be super crafty, or spend time preparing – the deck is about generating ideas. All of the materials highlighted can be mixed and matched, adapted for children of all ages and abilities, and used in an infinite number of ways.
About Lisa Zaretsky & playAGAIN
Lisa Zaretsky, a mom of two grown children and a lifelong early childhood educator, received her Masters in Education from Bank Street College of Education, worked for many years as a teacher in preschool settings, and started her own program, playAGAIN, in 2010. Through the exploration of open-ended, repurposed materials, playAGAIN supports the sense of wonder and budding development of babies, toddlers, twos, and up. Lisa has also created BookPLAY, BoxSTRUCTION, PLAYabilities, and TINKERtogether. In all of Lisa’s original programs, children and families participate in the creative joys of reusing and recycling, tinkering and discovering, connecting and learning. It’s process over product and PLAY is the focus.
About Rose & Rex
Rose & Rex is an online, give-back toy boutique featuring a curated selection of intentional toys designed to foster imaginative play. Rose & Rex was founded in 2016 by early childhood educator Allison Klein out of a desire to start a larger conversation about our culture’s approach to learning. Recognizing a white space for toy brands and sites that not only offered high quality, stylish toys, but also offered information about the importance of play, Allison set out to build Rose & Rex as one-stop destination for design-driven, eco-focused toys and play tips.