Narrator (Catherine Sewell, play specialist): Play absolutely does not have to cost a lot. Kids really need materials to play. They need something to manipulate, which doesn’t necessarily mean they need toys. The best materials are open-ended materials, which means that the same object can be used in lots of different ways and by lots of different age groups.
The best example of open-ended materials that are fantastic for play are natural materials. Petals and leaves and sticks and the dirt and sand and water – they’re everywhere, they’re free and they provide your children with a huge variety of opportunities for play. So, a stick – it can be a sword, it can be a digging implement, it can be my microphone, it can be for the structure that I build something with. It could be something that I jump over. It could be something that I use to measure something. It is an open-ended material, can be used in lots of different ways.
And if we’re thinking about man-made objects, some of the best things in my experience are balls. From babies all the way through to 10- and 12-year-olds can be playing amazing games with balls. Cardboard. Recycled containers and boxes and tubes can be used for all sorts of things, and even something like strips of fabric or scarves. They can be dress-ups. You can make cubbies out of them. You can go and have a picnic with it.
You can dance with them. They can be all sorts of things for all sorts of people and all sorts of types of play.
The more they need to use their imagination to think about how they’re playing, to problem solve, try a new way, to use their bodies, use their minds or connect with somebody else, the more that they are able to do that, the more development is happening in their brains and across their whole body.