My New Year’s resolution: Make play time more meaningful

Childhood Development expert, Anastasia Moloney, talks about her Tot goals for 2017. Put down your phone. It’s all about being more present during play time.


This year, my New Year’s resolution is to have more unplugged time with my children.  It is so important to have uninterrupted time playing and learning together. Our lives are busy. So, it’s easy to forget to remove all of the distractions and to take a break from our other responsibilities for a short time so we can focus on meaningful play with our children. When we do spend the quality time together we all have so much fun.  A lot is learned and we enjoy each other more.

But, what IS meaningful play? Meaningful play, as it sounds, are actions or activities designed with a specific intent. There are so many great activities you and your little one can do together, one-on-one. In the moment, it can sometimes be hard for those fun ideas to come to mind. Here are some activities to try to help create or ‘jumpstart’ this meaningful playtime – all you need to do is be present and have fun!


Explore with the Hape Autobahn, which is a blast for all ages, but is best suited for older toddlers that no longer put things in their mouths, since small marbles are involved. You can enjoy creating, building, and experimenting different structures and how the marble rolls down. Test different theories about how it fits together to make it work in the right way.

Pretend Play

Children love to learn and imitate what you do in your daily routines. In the Hape Kitchen they can be in charge and you can be their dinner guest. Cook together, set the table, and dine together. There are many fun accessories to put in the kitchen to make the play endless and feel just like mom and dad’s kitchen. This is a fun way you can talk about manners and eating, as well as practice simple back and forth conversation.


Puzzles are not only a wonderful educational tool but they are also great for team building as you work side-by-side to put all of the pieces together. I particularly love the Blue Planet Puzzle by JanodThis great 208-piece puzzle is covered in amazing illustrations of each continent and its inhabitants. It includes intricate details about the people, the clothing they wear and the types of animals that live with them.


Start a small band using the Kid-o Tempo set. Explore with the different beats you can make: slow vs. fast, loud vs quiet. Experiment with sounds and have fun letting loose and dancing to your music!


Grow your own vegetable garden together! Let them help you plant and maintain it. This is a great opportunity to learn about how to take care of plants and sample the various vegetables you grow from the garden. This can teach your child a lot about science, responsibility, the earth, and healthy eating.  Your toddler can assist you in the garden with their very own gardening tools from Green Toys.

Finger paints

Make a mess and create together! Put down a sheet of large butcher’s paper and have fun painting with your fingers and hands.  The Pkolino-finger-paints are water-based and non-toxic making them safe for your little ones to explore with.

In addition to the above items, reading books, dancing to music, singing songs, and playing games together are other great simple ways to bond. Also, try to expand on your normal routines together and mix it up a little. Think of how they can help you with those routines and how can you involve them. By having focused time with your toddler, you are able to introduce new ideas and challenge them or start projects together which will increase their engagement with you and allow them to learn a lot!

This year I’m going to be more purposeful by utilizing some of the great products on the market, setting aside a dedicated block of time, and sitting on the floor to build, play, create, explore and enjoy with my little one. Who’s going to join me?