One of the things that I love about Melissa & Doug toys for young children is that many items come with a list of “Extension Activities” that work educational content into playtime, helping kids to pick up crucial skills organically. For instance, for the longtime favorite Melissa & Doug Grocery Store / Lemonade Stand, they suggest the following:
Have the child stock the grocery store with play food by filling each bin with by color. Have him/her group like color play foods together. The result will be a colorful feast for the eyes! Have child count the number of foods of each color.
Memory fun! Fill several bins in the grocery stand with one toy each. Then ask the child to study the stand. Ask the child to look away while you remove the item from one bin. Have child tell you what is missing!
Demonstrate math concepts using the plastic bins. Nest the bins into two unequal stacks. Ask the child to compare the stacks. Which is taller? (Which has more bins?) Which is shorter? (Which has fewer bins?) Discuss addition by making two small stacks and counting the bins, then combining the two stacks and counting the total. You can remove bins to explore subtraction too!
Naturally, every family will come up with their own ideas for how to extend the play value and educational value of every toy. And the Melissa & Doug Playtime Press blog is dedicated to collecting those ideas, so you can seek out fresh new fun every day! Here are a few of their great ideas:
- Use the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Magnetic Standing Easel to build the skills leading to kids learning to write!
- Great for the upcoming Fourth of July: break out the Melissa & Doug Band in a Box and create a mini marching band!
- Use the Melissa & Doug Nesting Sorting Barn to teach kids how to count! (Don’t forget to make silly animal noises!)
- Use the Melissa & Doug Wooden Steep & Serve Tea Set to build social and verbal skills!
- Use the Melissa & Doug Doctor Role Play Costume Set as part of a fun game of “word surgery“! (Seriously, this one is brilliant.)
- Use assorted craft sets to help kids chill out and decompress after a stressful school day!
- Bring out plush pals and play food to create the world’s cutest playdate picnic!
- Use traditional giant cardboard blocks to build a maze for kids to navigate! (For some parents, this may be a bit much, but if you’re a big nerd like me who missed building stuff with blocks, I think you’ll have fun with it!)
- Use hand puppets to play a storytelling game!
- Help siblings connect and bond by playing with dolls together!
And finally: don’t forget to just let the kids choose their own play activities sometimes – free play (unstructured, child-led playtime) is crucial for developing their creativity!