Ways To Encourage Free Play With Your Baby & Toddler

It is well established that free play is vital to the development of our children. You may be wondering what you can do at home to help. How do we cultivate creativity and a sense of play in our children? Here are some ideas.

With Babies:
1) Play the musical face game. Assign each part of the face or the body a sound and then “play” those sounds as you touch them. This is a great way to get rid of the crankies! Watch my how to video from our musical parenting course here.
2) Learn nursery rhymes to use while doing everyday activities. For example, you could say “Moses (or baby’s name) supposes his toeses are roses! But Moses supposes erroneously. For nobody’s toeses are posies of roses as Moses supposes his toeses to be.”
3) Set the scene and let your child lead. Babies are very good at play. Their entire life is the creative process of figuring out this world. Be a guide and a companion, set up a safe space and let them explore.
4) For other great ideas get your free musical parenting video course at or check out

With Toddlers:
1) Get out a big cardboard box, place it where you want your child to play and leave them to it. Make blankets, stuffed animals or other toys available if they are wanted but let them do what they want with the box. Turn off the tv and anything else that might distract from play. If your child is verbal and invites you to play, there are two options.  The first is to join in nonverbally. Just start playing and let them join in.  The second is to begin by asking a few guiding questions. “Who lives here?” “Who are you?” “Who am I?” Most of the day, adults are in charge of what happens, by allowing your child to lead the play they are able to experience what it is like to be in a different role.

2) Make or buy some sculpting dough. My favorite is “eco-dough.” Make things with it and then tell stories about what you have made.
3) Get out the crayons and paper, place them on a big piece of cardboard and doodle together. Pretend the marks you make are “notes” and sing your drawing. For great information on the importance of doodling in early childhood I recommend the work of Dr. Susan Sheridan and her book Handmade Marks.

Welcome play into your day. Your children will love you for it.

Resources for Further Listening:
Amy’s interview on Fox 23 about the importance of free play

TED talk with Stuart Brown

Amy’s interview with Dr. James Sutton on the Changing Behavior Network
You may need to scroll down to January 31st 2012. The interview is in two parts.

Resources for further reading:
New York Times article on Free Play

Christian Science Monitor Relearning to Play

Amy Robbins-Wilson, MA is a Musical Parenting Expert and Healing Music Artist. She is the award winning author of Transformational Mothering and the creator of the Mommy Jingles program. Sign up for your free Musical Parenting Video Tips at Learn more about Amy and her work at

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