8 ideas for simple play

Keep it Simple Stupid…
Now, please don’t turn the screen off, I am not calling you stupid! I guess this post has come around from my looking at how I play with my kids and how I have had to have a word with myself and remember that saying from my past life working in marketing… keep it simple stupid…

I am hugely guilty of over complication – I will over research, I will panic buy and over plan for pretty much any eventuality in life but sometimes, just sometimes, I have started to remember that the simple life is a pretty good one too and I don’t think there is a better example of this than good old fashioned simple play!

Why do we sometimes assume that to play a certain game we need all the kit, the latest all singing all dancing version and probably the most pricey stuff to make it feel right / work better? Or that a craft corner must be overflowing with goodies before we can get glueing and sticking? Its only taken me two kids, 4 years and the many hours I spent working with kids before I was a mum to realise that pretty much all the time, all kids want when it comes to play is clear rules, some inspiration and your attention. So – I am making a new year resolution (a bit early i know!) and when the school run is done, the shopping is packed away and I finally get to give my girls some attention, I am going to do my best to try to stick to SIMPLE PLAY for a bit. Less planning that always goes undone, less structure and heres the tough one for me… less control over the way the play goes…just go with the flow, sometimes it really just doesn’t matter if the game you started playing ends up being a very different one in the end!

Heres a few of our favourites:


Of course, real cooking is amazing – we love baking especially but if you cant quite muster the energy or ingredients for that, we also do A LOT of pretend playing. It is the first thing in fact that the girls will turn to when we have a spare 5 minutes before dinner or straight after school or well, any time they are looking for something to get up to! What i love about pretend play is that you can do it alone (and feed your toys like Freya often does) or you can do it together – Bea is often a waitress and Freya the chef! 

We have a lovely little kitchen which was a Christmas pressie for Bea a few years ago and wow its definitely been worth the investment! It is without doubt our most played with toy and totally gender neutral too – boys love to create too! You can get pretend food that is expensive, wooden and pretty and you can get really cheap plastic stuff – it really doesn’t seem to matter! I try to include the kids play food in my recycling too and they love to have cleaned and dried bottles / boxes etc that is for real food.

Garden Games

Whether its simply running about, kicking and throwing a ball or trying a spot of gardening (pretend and real!) If we are at home, and its dry weather – we are outside in our little garden most of the time.

I saw this outside game at the nursery school that Bea went to last year. So simple but so much fun and probably a bit safer than swingball for yonger kids! Learning to hit a ball with a bat is a great skill to learn and is really great for hand eye coordination. All thats needed is a washing line or long piece of string, one or two lightweight bats and some balls – we just picked holes in some balls we had in ball pit when freya was a baby but any lightweight ball will do. String up the balls on your washing line and your kids have a great game to play!

Number and Letter play

Now that Bea has started school, we have tried really hard to make learning fun (gulp what a task!) SO the other rainy sunday afternoon we did some great fun number jumping with these brilliant number cards she got as a gift. They would be really easy to make yourself too. We just shouted out different numbers, tried to hop on numbers 1-10 in the right order and generally had fun leaping about and learning. I guess another element to add in could be to roll a dice or two to get the number you needed to find, we will give it a go and let you know! We also have a set of salt dough numbers that we made and decorated together that we use for number recognition games, they are glittery so she loves them! Bea is also fairly hooked onto learning to write and loves nothing more than practicing her letters on any scrap piece of paper! She loves busily writing pretty much anything so is getting quite good with her letter recognition. To keep it fun we have done the letter fishing I wrote about here quite a lot.


We do a lot of dancing in my house. In fact, we have just done a whole afternoon of it – with just my vocals making the music (not going to be winning the Xfactor!) Its amazing how many words to nursery rhymes you know when you put your mind to it! Is there anything more simple than just having a good old fashioned boogie? Put the radio on and boogie or buy a great kids CD like this one which adds some great tunes to the old favourites. I love watching my girls dance together, its so cute. Bea especially does a lot of her own ballet dancing too. Having never had a lesson but inherited quite a lot of kit, she is definitely a wanna be ballerina!


The summer days seem like a long time ago already for us and we did a lot of this when the sun did shine but this isn’t a strictly summertime occupation. Wrap up warm and get your wellies on and go rockpooling or pond dipping if you don’t live near a beach! We bought our nets in a pound shop (dollar store for our U.S readers!) so that didn’t break the bank and always have a bucket or a jar handy. Its amazing what you can find and just lovely showing your little ones that there is more to life than stuff that comes wrapped in shiny paper…

Build a den

Whether its using every cushion you have in your lounge and loads of blankets, simply squeezing behind the curtains at grannys house or deep in the woods using branches and leaves (and a daddy is useful for this one!) hiding out with a friend in a den is one of Beas favourite things to do. Listening in to the chatter whilst they are hidden away is also one of my favourite things to do! I really want one of those posh Cath Kidson Teepees or the time to make this for my girls but to be honest, they are totally happy.


Seriously – this stuff is just the ultimate simple play tool. We have quite a lot of playdough toys to mould and squeeze amazing shapes with but, to be honest, they are always beaten by a large batch of new homemade play dough, some rolling pins, scissors and cookie cutters. My girls do a lot of playdough play and never tire of it. They pretend to make cake shops, sweet shops, animals, shell prints, simply chop it up and squished it together again – there is a limitless list of play to be had with playdough and some wonderful ideas out there in the bloggershere too…

Blow some bubbles

I think if you asked Freya at any one time what she wanted to do (and she wasnt near her toy babies!) she would want to blow and pop bubbles. Possibly the most simple, fun thing to do for ten minutes or so, big ones, small ones, it doesn’t matter. Oh and they are so pretty too…

This is of course just a snippet of ideas, what are your favourite yet SIMPLE things to do?

Love Mum on the Rock

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Post Author: Sarah Thorogood

2 thoughts on “8 ideas for simple play


    (October 17, 2012 - 7:59 pm)

    Love it! All for keeping it simple stupid 🙂
    Sam Ranieri


    (January 25, 2013 - 5:32 pm)

    We use balloons and use racquets. It teaches e kids hand eye coordination, builds their confidence, and makes them laugh laugh laugh!

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