Creating Play Rich Environments: Incorporating DAP at Home


As children’s first teachers, parents and caregivers play a vital role in children’s healthy development. While it may sound like a big task, the first step is simple: incorporate developmentally appropriate activities into your daily routines! Consider using the play activities listed below or create your own to turn your home into a play-rich early learning environment!

Everyday Play

If you are looking for opportunities to play every day, start by looking around your house and identifying items that can be playfully repurposed! Pots, cans, pillows, and curtains. The opportunities are endless! Continue reading below for a few guiding examples.

Infant: Household Item Play

While babies can’t feed themselves, that doesn’t mean they can’t practice! With supervision, give your baby their own spoon at meal time or give them a child-safe bowl and spoon to play with. You can also give your baby blocks and balls to strengthen their grip, practice their holding skills, and improve dexterity.

Preschool: Dramatic Play

Instead of getting rid of old clothes or household items, make a costume play box! Try collecting notepads, sleep masks, blankets, or other extra items and watch as your child brings a new character to life right in front of you! For extra fun, ask other household members to join or dress up yourself!

Kindergarten: Snack Time

During meal or snack time, invite your kindergartener into the kitchen to help you read a recipe, measure, mix, and pour ingredients. Ask your child to try reading the words on ingredient boxes or to try finding ingredients that start with a particular letter, like “e” for eggs! You can even incorporate science by exploring how solid ingredients mix together with liquid ingredients!

Outdoor and Nature Play

A healthy relationship with nature and the outdoors is important for lifelong physical, emotional, and mental health. To help build this relationship, find play opportunities that are outside, such as: puddle jumping, copying rain sounds, or making rock towers. Continue reading below for more outdoor play opportunities!

Infant: Outdoor Observations

As an infant, your child is taking in new sights, sounds, smells, and sensations. Broaden your child’s horizon by taking a stroll through nature, narrating what you see, smell, hear, and feel during the journey. This will expose your baby to new vocabulary through a positive outdoor experience.

Preschool: Muddy Maneuvers

Even though mud is messy and slippery, it provides a lot of great play opportunities for you and your child. Let your preschooler take off their shoes; squish mud between their toes and fingers; make handprints, footprints, and mudpies; and more! Just bring some water and towels to clean up after!

Kindergarten: Nature Hunt

Take a walk in nature with your child and try to find local animals, plants, and bugs. If you have them, bring binoculars to see how far away you can see and a magnifying glass to get a closer look at bugs and plants. You can research information online about local plantlife and wildlife to create a scavenger hunt and list of fun facts! For example, what type of animal is it? What does it eat?

More Information

To learn more about opportunities for play, visit the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative website.


Girl Reading

Series Navigation

The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

Learn more about the series.

Request free printed materials from our Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series.


Picture: A young baby looks up at the camera.
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