Play time with Nessa's Learn and Play

Through play, children learn how to communicate, make friends and make sense of their world. We have a natter with Tasha, who is an Early Years teacher. She shares some wonderful tips about making invitations to play.

I’m Tasha from Nessas Learn and Play Hideaway. I’m a trained Early Years Teacher and Mammy to two beautiful girls. I love everything about play and try to provide my children with opportunities to play as possible. I am also a keen cloth nappy and wipe user trying to lower my impact on the planet to try and preserve the world for my little ones. 

What was your favourite toy/ game to play when you were a child

I was very lucky to have a happy childhood full of play opportunities, toys and more importantly have three sisters that I was and am very close to. My favourite toy as a child was probably something rather traditional like a doll or Barbies. I played with these a lot with my younger sisters, playing Mams and Dads or re-enacting movies we’d seen with the Barbies. However, I spent most of our time playing outside on our bikes or roller skates playing games such as tig, polo, what time is it Mr Wolf and Bulldog (infamous for being banned in schools- whoops). We loved nothing more than to be outside exploring and making dens, practising our handstands and kicking a football around. 

What are your top recommendations for simple play ideas?

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to play, less is more. I’m a huge fan of open ended play which I don’t mean you have to buy expensive “must have” toys, instead use what you have. My toddler loves nothing more than being given a box full of different household items. One of her favourite basket I gave her to explore included a pan, spoons made from a range of materials, a bowl, a muffin tray and a variety of utensils. She adored exploring each object individually as well as seeing what they could do together. 

I also love linking any play to a book. I am a big fan of reading and want to pass on the love of reading to my girls so I do set up little invitations to play linked to their favourite books. 

I was once asked at a job interview what one piece of equipment or toy I would keep if I could only have one. My answer now would be the same as it was then- a stick. Simply because a stick can be absolutely anything a child can imagine, be that a wand, a broomstick, a car- there are endless possibilities! 

In my opinion any play that sparks your child’s imagination is a good place to start. 

What is your superpower? 

I don’t think I have a super power at the moment (I’m just keeping my little ones clean, feed and played with) but I’m sure my girls might say I have magic hugs.

If I could have any super power it would be to fly. That way I could travel easily and see lots of things around the world. If I wasn’t allowed flying I think it would be to be like Mary Poppins and click my fingers and my house would be magically clean and tidy. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I’m incredibly lucky and worked hard to reach my childhood aspiration of wanting to be a teacher. When I was younger I used to line my toys and teddies up playing schools as well as my sisters (much to their dismay sometimes).

What's your all time favourite Baba+Boo print? 

This is such a hard question! I think my favourite print is actually one I own as a wet bag not a nappy, which is Sunflowers. This has to be my favourite as we had sunflowers as a big part of our wedding day- our bouquets, in the church and on our tables to name a few. I’m also a huge fan of Northern Lights, Eucalyptus (which we were gifted by a friend of ours when our youngest was due) and I’m totally in love with the new Highland cow print. 

What inspires you to do what you do?

I am beyond lucky and grateful to have many, many people who influence me in many areas of my life!

It sounds incredibly cheesy but my two girls inspire me every day. Their smile and laugh make me want to be the best me I could ever be, the best role model and to give them the best that my husband and I can. 

My husband inspires me beyond belief. He works incredibly hard and does everything he can to give us the best life possible. He inspires me to see the best in every day, in every person and to try to be as kind, thoughtful and calm as he is.... I don’t always manage the last one but I try. 

My parents have inspired me every day of my life. There have been many times in the past where they’ve gone without to ensure that my sisters and I have everything that we need. I hope I make them proud with how I live my life and bring up my girlies. 

How would you describe the importance of play? 

I think that play is the most important thing any child (or anyone) can do. It helps us learn and practice a range of skills, such as gross and fine motor skills, social skills, problem solving and is a fantastic reliever of stress.  

I strongly believe and have seen that almost anything can be learned through play as and when a child is interested, right from counting to reading, it’s about providing the tools, the environment and carefully following your child’s interests. An example of this is within a school setting the children were very into vehicles. To provide opportunities for counting we provided a range of vehicles in a basket, the children naturally lined them up and counted them. We then took it a step further and provided a starting and finishing line, the children then had the opportunity to learn, use and understand vocabulary such as first, second, third. 

Another important element to play is that it allows children to process, understand and practice things they have witnessed in real life. For example it was my husband’s birthday at the weekend and we had a few friends round. The next day my toddler was gathering her people figures and singing happy birthday to them.  

Today there are so many expectations of children and adults alike. Play and freedom within play, plays a vital role in stress relief. It has been said that a child who has had a bad day will not say i’ve had a bad day but instead will ask you to play with them and this is the reason why. They want connection, time to process the days events and to let their imagination take hold.  

Play- as well as being a fantastic tool for learning, is also a safe space to be creative, to feel successful and to be free to fully submerge yourself. There should be no right or wrong way to play, no one telling them what to do or what the outcome should look like.  

Favourite eco-friendly swap or hack? 

My favourite eco swap that we’ve made are cloth wipes! I find them so much more effective than disposable wipes and softer on my little one’s bottom- no more using hundreds of wipes for one poo explosion. Another obvious eco swap we’ve made is the swap to cloth nappies. We did this slowly, which is an important tip I would give anyone. Swap one nappy at a time and see how you feel. Every reusable nappy is one less in land fill. 

A key eco-friendly hack I would recommend is use what you have! If you have plastic toys either use them or donate them. If you still have disposables use them or donate them again- it’s better for the environment for these to be used for their purpose than to be wasted and binned. 

Remember its not about one person doing it perfectly rather its about lots of people making small sustainable choices!

Quick fire round:

Tea or coffee? Tea! Everytime!

Lark or night owl?  Night owl

Summer or winter? Winter- Christmas and snow

TV or radio? TV

Mountains or beach? Mountains

Book or scrolling? Book

Rain or shine? Shine

Picnic or barbeque? picnic

Walk or run? walk

Cat or dog? Dog (although I have three cats)

Draw or paint? Draw

Text or call? Text

Jigsaw or board game? Board game


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