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Meet Jules from Stories of Play

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This week’s inspirational educator is Jules from Stories of Play! Jules is a preschool teacher turned Chief Household Commanding Officer (I’m personally going to start using this title instead of SAHM too as it sounds waaaay better!) She lives in Perth, Australia with her husband and three children. Read on for advice on how to encourage your children to play independently and information on how you can join her brand new Playful Parent Academy…

Jules! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed for the Inspirational Educators series. When I’m scrolling the ‘gram and see one of your posts, I often end up exclaiming, ‘THIS!’ aloud – often to the bemusement of the husband.

I love your honesty about plastic toys. Are people too quick to throw out perfectly good toys?

It’s my absolute pleasure to be interviewed! Love your work Sian and this series is such an amazing

I don’t think people are quick to throw out perfectly good toys. I think it’s more the misconception a
lot of people have that because a huge amount of plastic toys are thrown out daily and filling up our
landfills, plastic toys are bad! My point was really about the fact that it’s not plastic toys that people
throw out and are bad, but rather the fact that people throw out toys that are single-purpose use
and those just happen to usually be plastic (e.g. those light-flashing battery operated toys). So after these toys have run its course and have entertained for a short time or the children outgrow them
(in the case of many baby/toddler battery-operated toys in the market), those are the ones that get
thrown away.

There are honestly so many good quality open-ended PLASTIC toys such as magnetic tiles, lego and animal figurines that I can’t EVER imagine been thrown. My girls have inherited 30-year old legos
that belonged to my husband which my mother-in-law had carefully kept and they’re still incredibly
well-loved. In a nutshell, I believe we just need to make conscious decisions and purchases of the
kind of toys that we allow in our homes, whether plastic or otherwise. And always look to reduce our
environmental footprint in the first place by looking at purchasing pre-loved. Thrift shops for the

What does a typical day look like at Stories of Play HQ? Has there been a change of pace since the arrival of your youngest daughter?

Definitely. Quality time with my big kids is dependent on the quality and length of bub’s naptimes so that differs day to day depending on the latter. But the priority for me personally is always investing in quality time with my kids, so if you drop by my place on any day, you’ll definitely find unfolded laundry on the couch and stacked dishes in the sink haha. 

As for our typical day, the baby wakes me up anytime between 6-730am and then I get my older kids up for the day at 8am. If they’re up before that, they’ll read or chat together in their shared room. We all have breakfast together and after that the big kids play independently whilst I put the baby down for her first nap. And then I spend some quality time with the big kids for perhaps 20-30min playing with them, reading or doing an activity of their choice. And then after I’ve filled their cups, I “attempt” to do some chores. Then it’s lunch and naps for all 3 and I put them down or send them to their rooms one at a time. I don’t insist the older kids nap but they have to have quiet time in their rooms. I use this time to fill MY cup or to work on SOP. After naps they play independently again while I get our dinner sorted. Then it’s the whole dinner bath and bed routine. All 3 kids are usually in bed by 8pm and then it’s quality time with the husband and/or work for SOP. Pretty intense, but I wouldn’t change a thing 🙂  

You are an advocate for independent play. Could you give our readers 3 tips on how to start?

I love love love encouraging independent play. It’s given me so much freedom as a mum to 3 under 3 and helped me to enjoy my motherhood. It’s definitely one of my most asked questions, so much so I’ve written a blog post about it here and also why I recently FINALLY created and launched my signature online program Playful Parent Academy to help parents encourage independent play with their children.

My 3 biggest tips would be

  1. Prepare the environment. Set up the play space so that it inspires play and makes it easy for children to access materials and resources independently.
  2. Follow the child.  Being familiar with your children’s abilities and interests enables you to provide materials and set up activities that they will automatically gravitate to and want to engage with.
  3. Engage in play with your child. I cannot emphasize this point more. It sounds counterintuitive but honestly the more time you invest in playing with your child (Key: Playing with them and NOT playing for them), the better they will be at independent play. 

Could you tell us more about your new launch, the Playful Parent Academy (PPA)?

Sure! So Playful Parent Academy (PPA) is my online program where I teach parents how to confidently engage in play with their child, help them learn through play and have them playing independently for longer. The idea first came about because the most common question I get asked by far is “How do I get my child to play independently?” I realised that there are many parents who get really overwhelmed when it comes to playing with their children. They are often either unsure about where to start, how to extend on their child’s play and learning, they are bored (because eating pretend playdough cakes and blowing birthday candles out 20 times in a day gets old really quickly) or they just wish that their child will play on their own for longer than 5 minutes.
Whilst I firmly believe that every child is different and will learn to play independently at a different age, in their own time and it isn’t something that you can rush, there are definitely strategies you can implement to encourage that independent and engaged play and to help children become adept at it. And so I created PPA, drawing from my knowledge and experiences as an early childhood teacher of how children learn as well as my experiences as a SAHM of 3 under 3. As a teacher, I’m passionate about play and all the benefits it brings and I see it as my mission to bring awareness to the importance of play in the early years. As a mother, I’m passionate about helping mamas experience the joys of being a playful parent, of connecting with their children and making amazing memories with them through play.

Is there a particular educator / educational style that influences the activities you create?

Hmm I’d have to say that I take inspiration from everywhere! I’m inspired by Montessori’s philosophy of providing a prepared environment and Reggio Emilia’s environment as the third teacher so I do put in a lot of thought into creating an inspiring play environment for my kids. Megan from The Art Pantry and Jean from The Artful Parent also hugely influenced my passion for process art and inspired me years ago to offer a dedicated home art space as one of our play spaces in the home. 

Finally I get so much inspiration from Instagram accounts and one of my absolute favourites is Suze from Invitation to Play who’s inspired my love for thrift shopping and looking at pre-loved items with new eyes in terms of the unlimited potential for encouraging heaps of open ended and loose parts play. 

There are so many gorgeous, creative projects on your Instagram feed. Which art materials are your favourites?

Ooh this is a tough one! I’d have to say dot markers, dot stickers and a good quality watercolour palette. I highly recommend the palettes from Micador (I’m not sponsored by them but I just really love their products)

For those parents who are hesitant to try messy play, what advice would you give them?

1. Start small! Limit the variety and amount of materials that you’ve got and choose materials that are relatively mess-free. I’m a huge advocate for creating a dedicated home art space to encourage creativity and independence and if the idea of free-flow paint and glitter for instance causes you to break out in hives, just don’t offer those materials. Remember also that you don’t need to stock the space to overflowing to provide creative opportunities for children. Offer just 3-5 types of materials and the amount provided for each material. 

2. Teach, give clear expectations, provide boundaries for appropriate use of materials and follow through with consequences. Children can’t learn to take responsibility for their mess if they aren’t given the opportunity to make them and clean up after themselves.

3. Tuff tray! ‘Nuff said! 🙂

Instagram only shows us a snippet of people and their personalities. What three words would your friends use to describe you?

Encouraging, Authentic, Family-Centred

Finally, how can we find out more about Stories of Play? (put any and all links to social media here)




Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas

Sian is the founder of Teach Investigate Play. She helps parents navigate the early years by providing meaningful and simple activities. She also owns 'Get Set Social Media' - a social media consultancy for small businesses. From the UK, now living in Vienna (via Australia). About page has more!

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