My child doesn’t play. Or talk. 6 Effective Play Ideas – Solution #4: What you can COLLECT in your daily life.

You want to interact and play with your child, but he doesn’t talk and he is difficult to engage. He doesn’t play with his toys or engage in purposeful activity or meaningful play. In my previous posts, we explored the importance of WHO YOU ARE to engage your child, because you are in fact the best play partner or ‘toy’ for your child and how you can use WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE and DO AT HOME to facilitate interaction with your child towards communication and language development.

In this post, we will look at another simple, yet very effective strategy to draw your child into interaction: WHAT YOU CAN COLLECT, an easy way to help your child to make sense of and understand the world, and to have something to communicate about through talking and non-verbal interaction.

There are many things that you can collect in your everyday life, that lend themselves as ideal play materials to explore and organise, to sort and play with. In fact there are lots of materials in every household that can be used for sensory and imaginative play with your child to encourage imagination and creativity, language and problem-solving.

Natural Play and Everyday Materials: FREE for you to collect

Here are some ideas for play materials that have a HIGH PLAY VALUE and therefore a high chance that your child will be interested to engage and explore them and to interact with you about them:

Natural materials to COLLECT:

  • peach, mango and apricot stones
  • leaves – of different sizes, colours, shapes
  • sticks and twigs – of different length, thickness, shape
  • stones – of different sizes, colours, shapes
  • walnuts and other nuts
  • conkers, acorns, beech-nuts
  • shells – of different sizes, colours, shapes
  • pine cones – from different trees
  • pieces of wood, like off-cuts from a carpenters, make fantastic building materials.

Activities to DO with NATURAL play materials:

  • pick up and carry leaves, stones, sticks and twigs
  • put them into a basket, a bag, a box or other container
  • move them from a big container to another one
  • sort them into categories and respective containers, e.g. long sticks here and short sticks there, or peach stones in the basket and apricot stones into the small box
  • carry heavy things from one place to another, e.g. a bag full of stones. This helps them to achieve uprightness and to be well balanced.
  • take the mango stones into the bath to be scrubbed, cleaned and dried, an activity that might take you child a few evenings to complete
  • load pine cones or stones onto a toy-truck
  • nuts or shells can become stock or ‘money’ when playing shops

Recycling materials TO COLLECT:

  • card-board boxes of all shapes and sizes
  • yoghurt-pots or other containers that have been washed
  • egg-boxes
  • toilet rolls
  • lids and bottle tops
  • corks
  • small bottles, e.g. milk bottles, juice bottles, shampoo bottles, …

Activities to DO with NATURAL play materials:

  • sit inside a card-board box, – it could be a car, a boat, a house, a bed, …
  • containers for ‘container play’, – see my post ‘What you already HAVE at home’
  • tear up egg boxes to practice using hands and fingers
  • toilet rolls can become a chimney and wheels for a tractor, or even glasses!
  • cut the spikes off the egg boxes and use them for threading
  • sort a collection of bottle tops by colour, size, kind …
  • match bottles/containers and their lids

Sorting and tidying up: Everything needs to have a home!

Every evening, and every now and again during the day, it will be time to tidy up and put things ‘where they belong’, which is another very important activity of picking up and letting go, sorting, categorizing for learning to communicate, think, talk and problem-solve. Make it an interactive game. Not a chore.

from MindBuilders Play Manual

For more ideas, you can order the book here:


A warm welcome from Sibylle Janert.

I look forward to discussing your concerns.

To receive occasional updates sign up here: