What is a Play Silk? (and some ways to use them!)

Posted by Mandy Abel on

What the heck is a 'play silk'? Isn't it just a scrap of fabric?

Well, technically yes - it is (and thanks for the blog inspo, husband!) But read on to find out why it's so much more than that too!

Play silks are an incredible open-ended resource for kids. They are typically used in imaginative play but can also serve as props for many other activities. From a baby's first 'toy', to use as a cape or a dolls blanket in pretend play, or as a 'door' to another world, there are no limits.

A superhero, a fairy, a butterfly or a magician? You decide! 

Benefits of Play Silks

A play silk (or a basket of them!) is one of our top recommendations for any play space or educational environment. 

A truly open ended toy, they foster creativity, promote fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. They can even be used to help little ones learn about colours, shapes and textures. Perfect for kids to create their own adventures, to be used in dance and movement activities or pretend play scenarios - play silks are wonderfully multipurpose. 

They also last through different ages and stages, making them a piece worth investing in. Little ones will use them over and over again in many different ways that will likely surprise you - definitely not a toy to be left discarded on the shelf. 

Another benefit of play silks is that they can be used to support physical development. Children can use them to climb, crawl and hide, or create obstacle courses with them - helping to build strength, coordination and gross motor skills. 

Play silks are lightweight, easy to manipulate, and come in a variety of colours. They can help children develop their fine motor skills too, as they learn to fold, drape, and tie the fabric in different ways. 

So... much more than just a scrap of fabric - they are a valuable tool for kids to have fun, learn and grow with.

Play Silks for Small World PlayA playsilk makes a beautiful (and easy!) base for small world play set ups - here is our 'Sand and Sea' silk in action.

The Ultimate Open Ended Play Piece

The versatility and portability of play silks make them an ideal toy for children of all ages - from a baby playing peek a boo and learning about object permanence, to older children using them in imaginary play and story telling or dioramas and displays.

The Waldorf education movement has helped to popularise the use of play silks as a tool for promoting imaginative play and sensory exploration in children. With an emphasis on creative play, imaginative storytelling and the use of natural, open-ended materials; play silks have always been a Waldorf classroom staple. They are also now readily available in the mainstream, with the concept of open ended play gaining popularity in homes and educational centres around the world.

Naturally dyed with plant extractsExclusive to Fairplay, these play silks are botanically hand dyed right here in Aotearoa with organic, home-grown and locally sourced plant extracts. Each piece is one of a kind.

Does it have to be silk?

While there is something special in the feeling and texture of silk (with it's added sensory benefits), there are many cheaper alternatives you can also use which are just as wonderful!

We love our range of organic cotton play cloths, and also use old sheets and scraps of material in our play. Another alternative is our reusable gift wrap squares made from up-cycled saris. Thrift stores are often a treasure trove full of cost-effective fabrics in all colours and textures - perfect to be cut, hemmed and repurposed for play! If you create your own, we recommend using lightweight, natural fabrics with a rough size of 85cm x 85cm (this is the same size as our botanically dyed play silk range). 

Our organic cotton play cloths are a smaller option, still perfect for a range of play.

Some Ways to Use Play Silks

I probably don't reaaaally need to write this list - your children will be able to show you hundreds of ways these beauties can be used with absolutely no prompting required.

Here's a few of my favourites that I have observed in my own kids play as a kick starter...

  • Use it as a cape for dress-up
  • Make it into a cosy tent 
  • Set up an obstacle course
  • Pretend it's a magic carpet
  • Wrap it around your waist like a skirt 
  • As part of a seasonal celebration table display
  • Roll it up to use as a tail
  • Set up a pretend picnic and use it as a picnic blanket
  • Pretend it's a sail for a toy boat
  • Create a river or waterfall 
  • Wrap it around a stuffed animal like a cozy blanket
  • Use it as a hammock for a doll
  • Make it into a pretend waterfall or river
  • Pretend it's a fishing net
  • Use it as a flag for a parade
  • As an island in 'the floor is lava' game
  • Create a 'doorway' to another realm (the backyard or forest is great for this!)
  • Use it for dance and movement activities
  • As a tablecloth for a pretend tea party (or a real one!)
  • In a nature table display
  • Be a superhero! Use it as a cape or wrap for your head
  • Use it as a base for small world play - add some animals and natural treasures
  • Be a magician and use it as a cloth for magic tricks, or tied as a cape
  • Use it to illustrate object permanence for babies
  • Play Peek a Boo!
  • As reusable gift wrap
  • Hang from a play gym
  • Pop it inside a basket or a tissue box for babies to explore
  • Use it as wall decoration in a play space or bedroom
  • As part of a celebration table - for a birthday or special holiday

    Ideal for use in music and movement activities - play silks are incredibly versatile!

      How do your children use play silks? Would love to hear some more ideas below! Feel free to tag us on instagram in your play #fairplaynz

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