How to Engage Children in Their Early Years Through Play



The importance of play

During the early years, children spend most of their time trying to figure out the world around then – and most often they do this through play. Their spirit of adventure and curiosity gives them ample opportunities to explore. This exploration leads to a lot of impromptu learning. Though the toy market is booming today with a lot of focus on “academic”, “sensory”, “cognitive” development, children do not need a lot of equipment or toys to play with. With regular household items and just a little bit of imagination, children can have meaningful playtime.


10 ways to engage children without a lot of toys

There is no difference for a child if they have a fancy toy or just a simple box, as long as it’s interesting. Here are some early childhood education techniques to keep those little minds active and engaged throughout the day:


  1. Sorting – from sorting fruits and vegetables into separate baskets, to arranging plates and spoons in the kitchen. These are all fun tasks to keep children engaged. Sorting could be used as an introduction to size, shape, or color.

  2. Measuring – helping in measuring ingredients for a recipe can help children understand the concept of quantity and make them feel useful in the kitchen.

  3. Scavenger hunt – who doesn’t enjoy a good scavenger hunt? With random items lying around the house, children can have a fun time finding these hidden items.

  4. Counting – one of the first concepts that can be easily introduced to children is numbers. Stairs, plates, bottles, furniture; anything can be used to help children practice counting.

  5. Rhymes – one of the most engaging activities for kids, is singing and dancing. You can use rhymes and songs in any language of your choice. This helps children not just with expanding their vocabulary, but also with their creativity and way of expressing themselves.

  6. Matching – similar items or related items can be used to help children with the idea of matching. Matching colors, shapes, or a pot with its respective lid are all ways to keep children engaged and interested in their matching items in their surroundings.

  7. Simon Says – the game «Simon Says» is a fun way to help children understand the concept of following instructions. This can keep children engaged for a long time with simple directions to follow and as they progress, the instructions can be made complex.

  8. Painting – This can be used as a means of both creative expression and messy play. Various kinds of colors and techniques can be used for this purpose, including watercolors, crayons or markers, finger-painting, mixing paints etc.

  9. Sensory play – young children absolutely love to engage all their senses when they play. So, an activity that involves the different senses are great at engaging the children in play. Like squishing sand between their fingers, smelling different fruits, listening to animal sounds, etc.

  10. Water play – water play is fun even for adults. Whenever there is a need to burn off some energy or relax the child, water play can come to the rescue. This could involve splashing in water or filling and pouring water between cups.


Parents can focus on utilizing a play-based learning approach to keep their toddlers engaged with the best outcome and prolonged interest. Help them label their emotions. Play-based learning can be an effective means to achieve this. Engage in playful activities where you help them understand what different emotions are and look like. This can help the child better convey their own emotions next time around.