Whole Parenting Family

Unstructured Playtime: What Your Child Can Come Up With

Their little minds never cease to amaze me. J has come up with several container games of his own design as of late. We encourage unstructured exploration playtime during the day, in hopes his imagination will ignite. Sometimes this means lots of interactive play with him, but other times it means he becomes engrossed in something and can’t resurface for a while.

The tennis ball tupperware game means you put as many tennis balls as you can in one tupperware, then move them to another all at once. If you find one that the dog has been chewing on and it’s a bit worn down, you turn to your mother or father and proclaim it to be “ishy!” Or you decide to chew on it as well.



Bugs! Plastic ones. Moving them from container to container, using my mom’s old marshmallow cream jars, provided lots of fun the other day. He wouldn’t stop to give me a high five after having completed his self-assigned task. Instead, he began again, in earnest, to put them all in one container, and then pour them all at once into the other.




Letters and numbers on his easel, the gift from my parents for Christmas, while playing with my dad. He loves his Baba, and loves showing him his letters and numbers. Our counting always starts at “two” and skips around a bit, and he’s obsessed with the letter “e.”



Kisses for all! J is an equal opportunity kisser.

Do remember to give your child a chance to let his or her imagination run wild. When you only have one, and you’re with them often, it feels like you either burn out, or become a helicopter parent. Strike the balance by allowing the child to set the pace of play, and make a mess of the house.


  1. roselady on January 24, 2012 at 7:25 am

    The bugs look fun…that would definitely be a good one with my family of mini entymologists.

    • Novice Natural Mama on January 24, 2012 at 9:38 am

      Love it! Why are bugs so enchanting for kids? They totally creep me out. And I had to put a quick stop to him putting them down his shirt and in his pants. Otherwise this summer would be very interesting once he encounters the live version. Yeesh!

  2. ejones217 on January 24, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Oh, he’s such a cutie N! And oh so serious demonstrating his numbers and letters to his Baba.

    • Novice Natural Mama on January 24, 2012 at 10:15 am

      🙂 He takes learning very seriously, apparently!

  3. Donielle Olson on January 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I Love this!! I think pushing learning on a child stunts the great minds at work!! I have taken a huggies wipe container and filled it with milk jug caps. The kids can’t get enough of putting them in the slot and opening it up to dump them out. everything he is doing on his own fits into so many areas of learning! Way to let him explore!! W saw these pics and said “Hey it’s the cute boy from the wedding at his house now! It’s J! =)

    • Novice Natural Mama on January 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

      That is a great idea! I love that W knows J. They are destined to be good buddies.

    • Novice Natural Mama on January 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

      That is a great idea! I love that W knows J. They are destined to be good buddies.

  4. Donielle Olson on January 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Do you let him play in water too?

    • Novice Natural Mama on January 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Not really outside of the bathtub, though we’re borrowing this “learning tower” from a girlfriend and seeing if he wants to reach into the sink now that he’s the right height. How do you do water with your kids?

      • Donielle Olson on January 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm

        I bought smocks from lake shore learning to start with. I have let them play in a tub or cake pan at the table or in the sink. Here is a list of some of the items I’ve given them off the top of my head; laddles, measuring cups, spoons, sponges (3 yrs+), bugs, army men, balls that sink or float, marbles (3 yrs+), super heros, Cups and dolls. If it is a kitchen item or toy that can get wet chances are it can be used in water play. If you let J cont. his play with tennis balls and bugs in water he would love it and they would be a great start. I also lay down towels on top of cheap shower curtians or rubber table cloths. This will provide hours of play and you can limit the mess by the amount of water given. I try to make sure I give them just enough water that if they spill it will be absorbed by the towel. I like to teach children a great deal of science this way with hands on play. Good luck and Enjoy!!!

        • Novice Natural Mama on January 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm

          This is such a great idea, and really wonderful for developing sensory senses. Okay, I’m going to go out there and do it! And will post about it so you can give me some good feedback.