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Summertime: An Opportunity for Service & Learning

Ah, summer, time to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine or the shade of a leafy tree lazing away the hours lying in a hammock. That sounds appealing to me, if we add a cool breeze, a pitcher of unsweetened iced tea, and an engrossing book. Clearly we all need time to unwind, relax, and simply be. Otherwise, we lose our ability to meet the challenges and savour the delights of our lives. Remember, summer is fleeting. Don’t miss out on a chance to enjoy a lazy day.

I have become increasingly aware that many people also look forward to summer for the oppportunities it affords to spend a block of time, be it a week or a month, sharing themselves and their talents with others at home and abroad. These progams teach lessons we could never learn from studying and provide those Aha! moments that change our lives forever.

Recently my 16 year old great nephew Dutch wrote to say he will be traveling with 10 other high school baseball players and two chaperons to the Dominican Republic for a week in August. They will be delivering food, medicine, and baseball equipment and playing baseball “in the streets, parking lots and cow pastures of the Dominican Republic, with the children who live there.”

Colleges increasingly offer summer learning opportunities for students. [Where were these 40 years ago when I was an undergraduate?] One such program at the University of Missouri has 16 students spending a month in Ghana. Each student brings valuable skills and a desire to serve and learn in one of three areas of need: health education, children with special needs, and technical education. One, Catherine Rolfe, has promised to report on her experiences. So stay tuned…

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Toys for Toddlers (12-36 months)

Open-Ended Play and Household Objects

Toddlers are masters at playing, and they are too young to have become brainwashed into thinking they must have specific toys to enjoy the process. Now is the perfect time to be creative and provide children with open-ended play experiences incorporating household objects. Young toddlers like filling and spilling, exploring the meanings of in/out,  full/empty as they do so. Provide baskets and buckets  for these activities.

Carrying around favorite small objects is another popular pastime. Purses are ideal for this activity. I  have a niece to whom we gave a family of Schleich Holstein cows for her  first birthday. Bull, cow, and calf became her constant companions and accompanied her everywhere safely transported in an old purse.

Push and Pull Toys

Push and pull toys are great ways to develop large motor coordination and strength. Try small wagons for filling and carrying toys or a toy stroller for giving animals and dolls a ride. Large corrugated cardboard boxes and laundry baskets also invite pushing and pulling and crawling in and out.

Play Props

Open-ended toys such as blocks and boxes of various shapes and sizes become houses, roads, castles, and caves. Provide props such as fabric, animals, and vehicles to support your child’s play ideas. Such open-ended materials allow children of many ages to play together with the same “toys.” Infants and toddlers learn by watching other children play. Provide opportunities for mixed age play experiences. Multi-age play enhances creativity and problem solving skills as the children find ways to play cooperatively.

Imitative Play

Your toddler will enjoy pots, pans, spoons, brooms, and other adult objects that are safe for mimic play. Imitating the actions of adults around her is an important way she tries on various roles. Almost any safe object can become a toy for imaginative play. A banana may become a telephone, and a blanket  morph into a cape or a tent. Dress up clothes, food, and kitchen toys inspire toddlers to pretend. Baby dolls are often a favorite toddler toy for both boys and girls.

Sand and Water Play

Outdoors, sand and water play provide opportunities for imaginative play as well as motor development. You can encourage this play by adding small toys such as animals, vehicles, plastic containers, bowls, and spoons. A colander from the kitchen becomes a sieve; small pitchers provide practice in pouring.


Kicking and throwing balls help older toddlers develop coordination. Lightweight, easy to grasp, crush, catch, throw, and kick, Oball makes an ideal first ball. Rolling a ball back and forth is also good for social development as your child learns to notice a playmate and take turns. Wiggly Giggly Ball is a delightful choice for this activity.

What  play experiences incorporating household objects do you recommend for toddlers?   We’d like to compile a list to share with all our readers.

We’ll continue our play recommendations for toddlers with our entry of 12 July.  Meanwhile have a great Fourth of July.

Adapted from TRUCE Guide on Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media, with permission from the Child Life Council.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Play Can Be Solitary or Social

Play can be solitary or social. Whether alone or in the company of others, play enhances development, encourages creativity and imagination, and provides opportunities for children to assess situations and solve problems.

Children need to learn to entertain themselves as well as play well with others. Both are valuable skills that take time and practice to perfect. Toys that work well for a child either playing alone or with an adult or other children are the most versatile. Balls fit this category, and one brand that works particularly well is Oballs.


These multiple award winning balls are lightweight, easy to grab, crush, catch and throw. Oball invites finger exploration and experimentation as children who never before could grasp a ball find themselves easily holding and exploring these 4″ diameter balls. PVC and latex free, Oballs  are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play