Dynamic vs. Static Play
Keep it Simple – Basic is Better.
Play is most enriching when children are able to engage their imaginations. Fully developed play scenarios transport children to new worlds that are complex, rife with interesting challenges, and as fulfilling as any wild adventure story.
The best way to encourage this type of dynamic play is to provide children with simple props that help them engage their senses and visualize this brave new world.
Most commercially produced toys are realistic-looking and “static” – that is they have a single purpose – a plastic car or animal does not have any other use other than to be played with as a plastic car or animal. Dynamic props are open-ended materials – such as scarves, pieces of wood, or balls – that stimulate the imagination and creative thinking, making them ideal for Self-Directed Play. A stick can be used as a magic wand, a horse, or a Maestro’s baton.
Benefits of Dynamic Props:
- Some cost nothing, and others are generally inexpensive
- They can be made from recycled or natural materials
- Contributing to their flexibility as props, they are much less visually and emotionally stimulating compared with many static toys sold in stores.
- They stimulate creativity and learning.
- They stimulate cooperative play – Due to their flexible nature, friends and siblings tend to have less conflict over dynamic toys than static ones.
Simple, Dynamic Play Materials from Around the House:
- Scarves, textured and varied fabric, felt
- Sticks, feathers, pieces of driftwood, fur, animal bones
- Balls, wooden blocks, eye droppers, magnets
- Clean bottles and recycled containers, plates, cups, spoons
- Large cardboard boxes, paper bags, paper towel or wrapping paper tubes
- String, yarn, ropes
- A big trunk – filled with pillows and blankets
- Binder clips – great for attaching capes, or building blanket forts
- Rocks, gems, buttons, sea shells, marbles – kids love collections of small things
- Small treasure boxes – for holding collections of small things
- Purses or bags – as containers and props
- Activities that involve water, sand, starch, flour, shaving cream, food coloring
Dynamic Toys for Babies:
Wheeled toys – Babies love to drag and push. These toys help them develop balance and visual-motor coordination.
Shape Sorters – The design of these toys, centered on cause and effect, is fascinating to babies, who have no idea what to expect.
Toy Telephones – A basic, toy phone is a great tool for developing language and representational thinking. Babies “talk” on the phone and learn to grasp the concept of sharing information.
Basic Block Sets – Sparking imagination and creativity, building structures is great for hand-eye coordination and for learning about patience and sharing. Not to mention, they enjoy a sense of accomplishment after completion.
Dynamic Toys for Toddlers:
Household Items – Use plastic measuring cups, wooden spoons, pots and pans, laundry baskets, cleaning materials (no chemicals, of course). Toddlers love playing with anything they see their parents using.
Tossing Games – Toss some beanbags or balls into a basket – just make sure nothing breakable is within range.
Ride-on Toys without Pedals – Without the ability to go too fast, kids improve their sense of balance, develop motor skills and strengthen their muscles as they scoot around.
Dynamic Toys for Preschoolers:
Puzzles –Kids learn social skills and how to play cooperatively when putting puzzles together with others. As kids get more competent, you can even set up puzzle relay races.
Stuffed Animals – Kids often communicate more easily at this age through the use of a toy, and pretend play can be an excellent time to check in with their feelings. For kids who may be shy, this fosters speaking and listening skills.
Art Supplies – Having art supplies available and a dedicated space for kids to use them can unleash creativity and imagination, develop their craftsmanship, fine motor skills, and so much more. Art is a never-ending journey…
Balls and Blocks – With these, kids are working on hand-eye coordination, timing, and sequencing. Usually there is a social element, as well, a good opportunity to practice sharing.
Pretend Play Supplies – A dress-up station and a collection of props can allow your child’s imagination to run wild. Encourage pretend scenarios of all kind, and allow your child to lead the way.
Music for Dancing – One of the best things to do on a rainy day, or to cure a sour mood, dancing is fun, physical, and helps develop a variety of abilities – coordination, flexibility, balance, agility, strength, and stamina. It is also emotionally expressive and great for mental health.
Dynamic Toys for Kindergarten Kids and Older:
Board Games – Kids learn to follow the rules, use verbal communication, and test their attention span as they wait for their turn. Adults can model skills and offer reminders to help stay engaged in the game.
Building Sets – At this stage, kids learn to collaborate with other children, often constructing impressive structures that are multi-faceted and multi-use – great for pretend play with props!
Stamp Sets – Let kids explore their creative side and increase their dexterity skills.
Indoor Forts – Building a fort is a great way to take play to a whole new level. Old sheets, blankets, and large cushions are great for hanging over couches, tables, and chairs to create small safe spaces that are perfectly kid-sized. Don’t forget to use binder clips to hold it all together!
Butcher Paper – Always have a giant roll of paper available for art projects and pretend play – the applications are endless.
Even the environment itself can be used for dynamic play. Kids should have a chair in their room so they can sit and do activities at a table, but that chair can also double as support for a roomy blanket fort. The bathtub is a great place for dynamic play, and simple plastic food or drink containers can be great fun for water play. For outdoor fun, things such as sandboxes, wading pools, outdoor climbing structures, slides, swings, tree houses, monkey bars, and climbing walls give your child infinite opportunities to engage in self-directed and Dynamic Play.
National Association for the Education of Young Children: