How to Play 101

You may have noticed during your time at LEAP that facilitators interact with your little one using strategies that you may have not seen before. Sometimes these strategies seem silly, sometimes they lead to an intimate interaction, and sometimes they lead to simple side by side play.

LEAP class is proud to be primarily child-led free play. At first, the switch from the structure and routine of the day to LEAP might be a little awkward for both caregiver and child but with time it becomes second nature.

Here are some strategies you can try at LEAP or at home to encourage your child to lead the way during play!

Fall LEAP Wednesday_Wings 1 015.JPG

o   Enter their space: When your little one is engaged in play a crucial first step is to get on their level. Whether it be crouching, sitting, or on our bellies this shift in height difference indicates your presence with them in that moment. Take a minute to observe their play and mimic it, become part of their play experience without interrupting it.

o   Mirror talk: Now that you are in their little world and you’re tempted to engage in conversation, start out by reflecting and commenting on their play. A great way to understand mirror talk is thinking of it as acting like a sports announcer! Describe their play using adjectives and action words, incorporate the senses and use both familiar and new vocabulary. This shows that you value their play process and interests.

Saturday Spring LEAP_Birds2 (3).JPG

o   Ask the right type of question: Maybe your child is using their fingers to paint at the process art station and you have no idea what they are thinking as they add on to their blob shape. Instead of asking straight out, “What is that?” - try asking about their creative process by using “I wonder..” statements. We also like to use “I think…” statements! You could say something like “I think your finger painting is beautiful. I wonder what you are making.” This phrasing removes the pressure of responding while also opening up the conversation to new ideas.


o   Be comfortable taking a back seat: Listening to, thinking about and generating a response to a question or comment that an adult makes can be cognitively distracting from play. Playing alongside and enjoying the moment are two ways to show that you value your child’s play. You can always talk about their play experience during the commute home!

o   Have fun: Appreciate the moment that you experience together! Whether your little one is squishing dirt between their fingers or crouched against the glass at the bear’s den, let their wonder wash over you and bring you together.


Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.
— Mister Rogers
Mr. Rogers.jpg

Written by Brenda Rivera

Summer Children's Books

We are half way through summer and we have been having so much fun in the sun! During your time outside, you’ll notice nature in full bloom with colorful gardens, chirping birds, and busy bugs.

Whether you’re enjoying time on a park bench, a sandy beach or with a humming fan spend some of summer with a book in hand! Take a peek into the lives of all our crawly, feathery and scaly friends by grabbing one of our favorite summer children’s books.

Don’t forget to check out our Books and Resources tab to find even more children’s books to enjoy!

Written by Brenda Rivera

Keep It Cool In Nature!

Hooray! It’s time to celebrate, summer is officially here! The weather is heating up and we can feel the warm sun shining down on our skin. Summertime gives us the opportunity to invite nature into our daily lives. Whether it’s in a backyard, park, beach, forest preserve, or patio spending time in and with nature helps us learn, explore and play!

Try out some of our favorite ways to enjoy nature this season:

Nature Boardwalk.jpg

Take a Walk

Whether you have 5 minutes or 30 minutes, curiosity and discovery can make walks magical! Can you be gentle enough to hold a rollie pollie? Can you listen for wildlife in the trees? Can your fingers feel the texture of a flower petal? Can you see the stars (or satellites) in the night sky? Walks can be a perfect way to wind down the day and enjoy a gentle breeze.

Mud Day 6.29 (47).JPG

Make it Muddy

Do you remember squishing mud between your toes? What about making mud pies? Mud is an often forgotten tool of play and imagination. Let’s bring it back this summer, all you need is dirt and water! Add some tools like bowls, pans and spoons to really stir things up! Whether you’re making your own mud or enjoying it after the rain, mud play is a great way to get messy, stay cool and have fun!

Bosley (6).jpg

Fort Building

Sometimes we just need a safe, cool space to be in outside and fort building allows us to create that space almost anywhere! You might need some rope, clothespins, or even sticks to help drape and hang sheets out to create a cool, shady space. That space can be a castle, a cave, a spaceship, anything! Whatever kind of space you build can provide relief on the sunny days ahead.

Paint Popsicle.jpeg

Paint Popsicles

If watching your drawing disappear is too disappointing for your little one, try using some paint popsicles instead! Fill up some paper cups or an ice cube tray with paint, add a craft stick and pop them in the freezer. Once they’re ready to use take them outside with your choice of canvas and paint as the ice melts in the sun!

Moon Watch

Do your little ones notice how the moon changes throughout the month? Take some time each night to draw the moon on a calendar. If you’re doing a late car ride encourage observing how the moon seems to follow along your route.

Rollie Pollie.jpg

Bug Hunt

Little hands can find little creatures crawling all around. Start with sidewalks and flowering plants then move on to turning over rocks or digging up some soil. If bugs make you a bit squeamish watch them from a comfortable distance and imagine what kind of tasks they might be completing!

Water Paint.JPG

Water Drawing

What better way to stay cool than with water! All you need is a container with water and something to draw with. We like to use paintbrushes, sponges and our hands! You can draw on the sidewalk, on trees, or even on yourself, your canvas is unlimited when you’re outside. Watch the drawings disappear as the sun heats it up enough to cause evaporation! There are many ways you can alternate this activity to fit your little ones wishes. Use ice cubes to draw, use a spray bottle, add scents, be creative!


Bring Nature Indoors

Some days are just too hot to go outside so we must seek shelter inside away from the heat. We believe nature play can be brought indoors with us to continue the fun! If you see one of these days in the near future, plan ahead by collecting some loose parts together from outdoors; leaves, rocks, petals, and pine-cones are some of our favorites. With some bowls, baskets or even egg cartons your little ones can play, sort and discover!

What’s your favorite summer nature activity? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’re interested in more ways to soak up that vitamin D check out Vitamin N by Richard Louv for 500 more ways to explore and play in nature.

Written by Brenda Rivera