Race and Empathy

There are so many emotions that our country is experiencing right now: anger, fear, frustration, sadness, grief, horror. If you are feeling any of these emotions, your child is feeling it too. Children learn from their parents and feed off their emotional energy. However, it is not easy to put those emotions aside in times of great upheaval and strife. What can help to quell the despair and helplessness, is action. Helping someone in need, calling on friends and family, donating time, money, or goods and using your voice to strengthen the voice of others. We, as parents, have been committed to teaching our children right from wrong, even before they are born. But we now understand that it is our responsibility to teach not just acceptance, but acknowledgement of our differences and the celebration of those differences. We have a responsibility to teach our children not only to be kind, but also empathetic to the feelings and struggles of others. We have a responsibility to teach our children not only about race and racism, but how to stand up and speak up against racism in all its forms.

If you are looking for ways to begin these lessons at home with your child, here are some ideas to get you started.

Start early:
Babies will begin to recognize faces and stare at faces that look familiar, by 6 months. At toddler age, children are recognizing differences in people and can learn simple age appropriate concepts about race. What is important to remember is not to ignore racial differences, but to talk about them in thoughtful and respectful ways.

Acknowledge, Accept, and Celebrate Our Differences:
Pointing out differences in skin tone, hair texture, and other cultural differences helps our children to understand the world around them. Children are looking to their parents to give them insights on how to categorize and process what they are taking in. If your child points out differences in people they see or meet, use it as an opportunity to celebrate those differences (Yes! They look different from us and isn’t it wonderful that we have different colors of skin/hair/eyes etc). When we as parents acknowledge and accept the differences of individuals, we are showing our
children that our differences are not a deterrent to being friends.

The more we expose our children to others of different backgrounds than ours, we are helping them to create a wider world view. Our view of the world is narrow when you look at your own neighborhood, school, playmates etc. Challenge that through exposure. When we are able to socialize again, try out a “new to you” playground once a week. Your child will love the novelty of it and they will also have an opportunity to see and
interact with other children that may look different then them. Also, set up a play date with a new neighbor you’ve been wanting to meet. Until then, add to your home library and choose picture books featuring and written by POC. Make sure the characters are as diverse as their skin tones. It is important that the books you choose depict POC in many different roles, just as in the real world. Also, choose diverse television programs to expose your child to multicultural characters as well. Sesame Street has been creating positive multicultural programming for decades.

Model Kindness and Empathy:
Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling. We are born with the capacity to feel empathy but it is something that needs to be
developed. As parents, we can teach our children how to be empathetic by modeling those behaviors with our kids. Pretend play is one way to do that. By using toys to role play simple age appropriate situations of caring, inclusion, and acceptance you are giving your child powerful tools to help them navigate challenging emotional situations. While reading books together, talk about the character’s expressions and emotions. Asking
simple questions such as, “How does Gerald feel?” and “How could you help Gerald feel happy?” are easy for young children to understand and verbalize. If your child doesn’t have an answer, talk it through for them. They will be learning through your empathetic response. When children can once again socialize together, use play dates and playground meet ups to talk through emotions in the moment. Even if your child doesn’t get it at first, the continued practice of identifying emotions in other people is
part of developing the skills of empathy. Most importantly, your child learns from you. How you treat, react and respond to others, especially POC, what you watch and listen to, what you read, and who you socialize with will give your child the most influential lessons of race and racism of all.

We at Play to Grow are devastated for the BIPOC community and we stand with them as they are crying out for real change. We are listening to understand how to help and are committed to learning about our role in this fight for racial equality. We are at the beginning of our own journey in making antiracism truly part of our family’s, and Play to Grow’s, narrative and will be exploring and sharing more on this topic in the future as we learn and grow in our own education.

Here are some resources you may find interesting. We will be
adding to this list as we come across more information that may
be beneficial:

Multicultural Books for Babies and Toddlers

Books About Activism for Kids

TV Shows with Diverse Character

“Even Babies Discriminate: A NutureShock Excerpt”

Play it Again!

Welcome back to our “Play it Again” blog series. If you missed the
first post you can check it out here.
This series is about sharing multiple ways to play with one simple toy or
object to encourage and enhance cognitive, communication, social/
emotional, and motor skills for your baby, toddler, and preschooler. We
hope sharing a few simple ideas will make play time more fun and may
spark your own creativity!

Today, we are talking about blocks. Blocks are the most perfect toy!
They are open ended, versatile, adaptable, creative, and come in many
different varieties. Blocks can be played with in so many different ways to
further all areas of development from the baby stage to older children.
Playing with blocks provides opportunities for learning science, math,
problem solving, gross and fine motor, language, creativity, imagination,
and social emotional skills like self esteem and cooperation. Not only that,
when parents get down on the floor to play with their child they are also
learning ways to enhance development by using specific language (up, on
top, build, balance), sharing, building together, and celebrating success.
It’s fun for everyone! Before you begin, make sure you have blocks
available and accessible for your child. That way they can grab the blocks
anytime and start playing in their own way. We use baskets to corral
similar blocks on our toy shelf, but stacking blocks on a shelf to be easily
seen is a great option too.

Babies (6-12 months)
Babies are in the early stage of block play. They are exploring, holding,
and carrying the blocks.
Use a bin with low sides and toss blocks of various textures, weights,
colors, and sizes to explore.
Use soft blocks to play fill and dump games. Use a basket or cardboard
box to fill up with blocks then dump it out to start again. This is your baby’s
way of exploring early concepts of science and math.
Babies also love to tap objects and hear the sounds they make. Use
wooden and plastic blocks to tap together and tap on metal pots or bowls.
Add some drum music in the background to play along with.
Use the soft blocks to make a tower for your baby to knock down. Practice
saying “go” and “more” and giving your baby time to respond.
Place blocks along the couch so your baby can cruise toward each one and
practice those steps!

Toddlers (1-3 years)
Try the baby activities and also…
Build simple structures with blocks and knock them down!
Build blocks up and also horizontally on the floor. Challenge your child to
see how long or tall their structure can go. Also, create two structures side
by side and explore which one is bigger, taller, or longer.
Trace different shaped blocks on paper and have your child find the match.
Also, use various shapes, sizes, and colors of blocks and make matching
Use muffin tins to practice one-to-one correspondence with small alphabet
blocks then use the alphabet blocks to identify the pictures on the sides for
an early math and language activity.
Make block structures and incorporate a favorite character or stuffed
animal. Place the toy on top of, under, in, out, in front of, behind to practice
positional words.
Play block bowling by making small block towers then knocking them down
with a ball.
Begin to use blocks in pretend play. For example make a fence for the
barnyard animals, make a tree for the monkey to climb, or a train track for
Thomas to ride.

Preschoolers (3-5 years)
Try the toddler activities and also…
Make bridges and enclosures with blocks to explore the concepts of
Preschoolers are at the stage of using blocks for more pretend play by
making advanced structures for their play world. Allow them the freedom to
“take over” the living room rug for a bit as their creativity soars!
Use a spring scale and measure the weight of blocks.
Use blocks to measure things around the house. How long is the couch?
How tall is the desk? How tall am I?
Have a building contest with mom, dad or a sibling and see who can stack
and balance the blocks the tallest.
Use colorful blocks to make simple patterns.
Use blocks as dice and tape pictures to the sides.
Use action pictures to play a movement game, letters and a bingo board to practice reading skills, and familiar or even unusual pictures to practice language skills by making up a story. Each roll of the dice is a new line of the story. Your child may
just want to listen at first but will soon play along.

Last, but not least, follow the child’s lead as they build and play with blocks
Let them figure out what will and will not work according to the laws of
gravity! 😉

Now, go play!
Chelsie and Michele


Bubbles are a baby staple. Every baby, child, and adult enjoys good bubbles. Think about it, isn’t it satisfying to blow through a bubble wand? And isn’t it disappointing when they’re just not good bubbles?

Bubbles are an inexpensive toy that can provide endless activities. Here are ways to use bubbles and activate each area of development.

Cognitive: Babies are in awe of bubbles. “What are these shimmering balls floating above my head?” Blow bubbles to extend tummy time and encourage those eco muscles to look ALL around. For toddlers, they are using problem solving skills as they learn how to shape their mouth and how hard to blow, trial and error at its finest!

Language: “Where should we blow the bubbles? On your head or toes?” “Look! The bubbles are going up, up, up!” Bubbles make room for lots of language. Babies will communicate with you through smiles and reaching while toddlers use their words or hand gestures for “more”.

Social and Emotional: Who wants a turn? Everyone. Always. Practice turn taking with your toddler every time the wand needs reapplication. For babies, they are expressing their feelings of joy when the bubbles pop on their nose (or dislike) and it’s your job to respect their emotions. “It looks like you don’t like when the bubbles pop on you, I’ll blow them farther away,”

Motor Skills: Pointing, teaching, clapping, stomping, running, how many ways can you think to pop a bubble? Get moving!

The best part is bubbles are inexpensive, available almost anywhere including the dollar store, and last forever!

Dollar Store Haul

Wander the aisles of your local dollar store and fill up on goodies that are sure to entertain your kiddos.  Below are a few activities you can throw together with simple materials available from the dollar store, although you may already have most of them at home.  Keep them in a bin and store away when not in use.  Pull out in times of need, ie: prepping dinner, making doctor appointments, checking email, writing a blog post, etc.

Animal Bath: Fill a bin with an inch or two of water, add some plastic animals and a sponge.  Use a plastic table cloth as a catch-all and for easy clean up.  Let your little ones give their animals a “bath”.  Add some dish soap for some bubbles, or not if you have someone who eats everything.

Push and Pull Garden: Poke artificial flowers through a colander, let your little one “pick” flowers for you!  For a toddler, show them how to weave pipe cleaners in and out of the holes then let them work it themselves.

Stainless Steel Fridge Fix: Baking Sheets double as a magnetic refrigerator.   Add magnetic letters for spelling fun.

Tummy Time: mirrors, paper cups, bubbles, masking tape sticky balls, balloons, and items of various textures (cleaning cloths, hairbrush, gift bows, measuring cups, flashlights, practically anything.

Dollar Store Shopping List (all materials noted above plus some extra)
Plastic Animals
Dish Soap
Artificial Flowers
Pipe Cleaners
Baking Sheet
Magnetic Letters
Paper Cups
Masking Tape
Velcro Hair Rollers
Toy Cars
Baby Doll
Kitchen Utensils (spoon, spatula, tongs)
Gift Bows
Tissue Paper
Paper Plates
Coffee Filters
Spray Bottle

Want more?  Drop a comment with a random dollar store item and we will make an activity out of it!

Now, go play!

Get me outta here!

cab·in fe·ver
  1. irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.

We know the feeling.  We’ve all experienced it.  Whether it’s because you are snowed in, rained in, frozen in, stomach bugged in, humidity-ed in, no car-ed in, whatever the reason you are stuck inside with tiny humans it can get tense, reaaallllll quick.  Get through the day with these easy, minimal prep activities.

Cotton Ball Snow Angels


-Cotton balls or craft puffs for “rainbow snow” (no cotton balls? no problem! Crumple up scrap paper, tissue paper, toilet paper, whatever you’ve got!)
-floor space

Have your child lay on his back and count to 3.  Dump the cotton balls all over him and let him make snow angels.  Have him collect the “snow” and put it back in the bin/bowl/bag to do it again.

Extending the activity:
-Sing a winter song
-Count the snowballs
-Let them roll around in the “snow”, throw it in the air themselves, have a snowball fight


Play Doh Invitation to Play


Note: your child’s snowman will NOT look like this.

-play doh of any color
-snowman making materials: sticks, stones, buttons, baby socks for hat, googly eyes, baby carrots, anything you can find in your junk drawer or craft box
-glitter if you’re brave.

Place all items in small containers or bowls so your child can see all there is to offer (this is perfect).  He may decide to only use one item or just the play doh.  Practice rolling the play doh into balls.  Stacking the balls.   Push the balls down to make a melting snowman.


Snowball Soup

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-Actual snow if it’s available, otherwise bring back those cotton balls/paper snowballs, or crack some ice cube trays
-2 pots or large bowls
-spoons, cups, small bowls
-large towel

Spread the towel out and have a snowball picnic.   Allow your child to scoop and pour from one bowl to the other.   If snow is in short supply, fill a bowl with an inch or two of water (it will go a long way!) and a handful of ice cubes.  Your little will LOVE scooping the ice from the water.  Make a coffee, sit back and scroll through the gram.


Freeze Dance
-music or favorite songs
-floor space
-blue suede shoes

As simple as it sounds, this will surely get some energy out.  Practice directional words like “stop/go” or “fast/slow”  Hint: dance with your child, you both need it.


How else do you get through a looonnng day?  Leave a comment below!

Cloud Dough

Snow dough, blue dough, moon dough, glitter dough…

Whatever the day, mix up these 2 household ingredients for a safe to eat, fun to play, time for coffee activity!

4 cups of flour
1/2 cup of oil (olive, vegetable, canola, whatever is in your pantry)

Simply mix the oil into the flour, stirring at first, then mix with your hands.  It will become crumbly, but when molded together, it holds its shape.

Add a couple drops of food dye, edible glitter, cinnamon, ginger, peppermint extract, anything to set the mood!

Serve on a baking sheet with spoons, cups, cookie cutters, trucks, plastic animals, or legos.  Spark creativity and an invitation to play!


Now, go play!

Go Big or Go Outside

Toddler wake up on the wrong side of the bed?
Tired of listening to yourself sing “Wheels on the Bus”?
Day got you dragging?
Feel like there’s a million hours left before bedtime?

Think big.  Gross Motor Skills are a great way to use up time and energy, while activating the brain!


Kick it, kick it real good.


Crawling on clouds.


Ball o’ fun.  Because who’s using it for exercise anyway.


Forget the rake.


And on that note, when all else fails, get outside.  Fresh air is great to rejuvenate yourself and your babe.  Take a break from chores, screens, and whatever else is weighing you down and take in the sun.


Now, go play!

Put a bow on it.

Here it is!  Your guide to holiday shopping for the little ones in your life.  These are Play to Grow’s fave items for gift giving.

Tips for toy giving:

  1. Buy something that does not take batteries.  The parents will thank you.  And so will the child’s brain.
  2. Look for something that can grow with the child, that they can use throughout their childhood.
  3. Stay away from gender stereotypes!  Boys can play house and girls can drive toy cars around.

All of the gifts are linked to buy them but PLEASE visit an actual store!  Although the holiday crowds can be crazy at time, remember it’s important to interact with people on a daily basis! Brick and mortars for the win!

Disclaimer: Play to Grow does not receive any monetary reward for this post or any of the links you click on.  They are truly just great products!  Wouldn’t that be nice though? (So, hey! Any retailers reading this, hit us up!)

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Latch puzzle


Toy house


Shopping Cart


Tea set


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Sit and Stuff Bean Bag


And more books


Step Stool


Pop up Tent

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Shape Sorter



For more ideas on gift giving, check out this past post.

Looking for ways to keep it all together despite ribbons and bows, click here.


Now, go shopping.
Then, go play!


Happy Hauntless Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Here are a few fun activities to get you through this spoOoOOooOoky week!

Feed the Ghost! Cut a ghost out of poster or foam board.  Break out a large sauce pan, mix up some pretend food and feed that ghost!  Use alphabet magnets to practice letters with your toddler!  Practice imaginary play, language, and turn taking.


Haunted Tent: Drape black sheer fabric, orange string lights, and throw in some flash lights for a not so haunted house.  This will encourage gross motor skills, independence, and spark sensory receptors.


Invitation to Play: While your little one is napping, set out a spread of play dough and left over Halloween decor.  Your little one will practice fine motor skills and choice making while his imagination flourishes.

Put your dancin’ shoes on for this one:

Lastly, don’t forget to check out our past post when preparing your child for Halloween Festivities!

Now, go play!