In my Pinterest binge a few weeks ago I was looking for some inside toddler activities now that the weather is getting colder.  I found a few articles on independent, self-led play that stuck with me. A day later and a few bucks spent at the Dollar Tree I had a few random things for Mike to play with. I’m not talking balls or crayons, no. That’s too easy! I bought pom-poms, dry beans, muffin tins and mini Christmas bows to make a sensory box.

We quickly learned he might be a little too young for the beans in a box. Or S. and I might be a little too concerned about making a {huge} mess.

Just a plastic tub with dry beans and measuring cups.
Just a plastic tub with dry beans and measuring cups.

BUT – I gave Mike the pom-poms and muffin tin and it was a hit. I will be the first to tell you, it is really, really hard not to dictate HOW to play. I wanted to say ‘put the big ones in his pot’ … but why? I have no idea. It is what makes sense to me – the 30-something college graduate. I bit my tongue and waited to see what Mike did.

Just a muffin tin and a bag of pom-poms

He took the pom-poms to the couch, out of the bag and then tried to put them back in the bag. He picked them up, looked at them, put them down. I said nothing. I did nothing. About 15 minutes went by before he got bored, but I found it so interesting to see what he did. How HE interpreted the playtime. I’ve tried to put the concept of not dictating playtime into practice and sometimes it’s hard, but it’s also really really cool. I see a little imagination budding and Mike working out his own challenges like getting on the couch or putting the lid on his bubbles.

I really want to encourage first time parents to tell your kiddos to go play while you sit back and watch what happens. Just head over to Goodwill, the Dollar Tree or another super cheap store and pick up a few random items. Use your imagination!

Here’s Mike and his pom-poms (we did clean up our mess):

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