Why Is Play Important?
Play for children is what we do and define as “work” as adults. Children begin to understand how the world works through play. If you ever take the time to watch a child play, you will see them concentrate, ooze with passion and show creative excitement.
Playing with your child is not only fun but it’s one of the most important ways you can nurture their development. There are no rules when it comes to play and you definitely don’t need fancy or expensive toys. You are your child’s favourite toy!
Every child is unique. Your child may have special skills or special needs. Follow your child’s lead. They will let you know what interests them. When they see the pleasures and delight you take in their discoveries, they will want to play more and more. You can benefit too! Begin spontaneous and having fun can relieve stress and create positive memories for both you and your child. Remember, when your child is engage and having fun, they are learning! Play is truly the work of childhood!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
WATCH AND WAIT!
See what your child is trying to do. Provide just enough support for him to achieve his next step towards a new goal. You might bring an object your newborn is staring at closer so he can explore it with their hands. Or, you may encourage our toddler to try a different space where the puzzle piece might fit when they are getting frustrated.
FOLLOW THE LEADER!
Some children love lots of bells and whistles, and others find a lot of noise overwhelming and prefer to explore with their eyes. Some crave lots of movement, rolling, crawling or jumping. Others are most interested in using their hands to figure out how a toy or object works. Follow their lead, and you’ll discover what kinds of activities are right for her.
CHOOSING A GOOD TOY FOR PLAY
Nowadays, parents will walk into the store and become overwhelmed by the video, computer games, and other electronic toys that claim to make babies smarter. Don’t be fooled by the “make your baby smarter” claims. There is no research that shows that these products boost a child’s brain power. In fact, bowls for filling and dumping, pillows for climbing or making a cave, and old clothing for dress up are great learning tools. Classics like blocks, dump trucks, stuffed animals, and objects that imitate, “real life” such as toy hammers and play kitchens are great for developing the imagination. And don’t forget about books! The more a child has to use his mind and body to problem solve and develop his own ideas, the more he learns.
BIRTH TO 9 MONTHS
Toys that engage your baby’s sense, such as mobiles, rattles, chew toys and chunky board books. Toys that help him to learn cause and effect, such as pop-up toys and busy boxes.
Back and Forth
Coo and talk to your baby. You can imitate their sounds and wait for them to respond. Encourage them to copy you. Show them that pushing the button makes the toy dog bark or how they can turn the pages in a book.
Try hiding behind your hands, a diaper or a onesie as you dress your baby. Early on, he may show their pleasure simply by paying close attention. Then they smiles, kick their legs and make sounds. By 9 months, they may pull your hands away from your face to “find” you.
9 TO 18 MONTHS
Toys that imitate real life, such as plastic tools, play food and animal farms. Problem solving toys that help children learn how things fit together, such as shape sorters and nesting cups. Push and pull toys and balls also let toddlers move their active bodies.
Let’s Do It Again….and Again…and Again…
Through repetition, toddlers figure out how things fit together and work. They might fill and dump a pail over and over to learn about full and empty and in and out. They may want you to read the same book, and sing the same song, night after night. This kind of repetition helps children know what to expect. This gives them a sense of security and control over their world. It also helps them to master new skills, which boosts their self-confidence.
Young Toddlers love to make things work. They use their hands and fingers for pushing buttons, opening boxes, and turning pages. This allows them to do everything from getting the music box to play their favourite song to exploring a treasured book. Many children also like to finger paint, colour, play with play dough or squeeze water out of a sponge.
18 TO 36 MONTHS
Materials that help them use their hands to create, such as play dough, crayons, and finger paints. Objects that help children use their imaginations, such as dress-up clothes, action and animal figures, dolls, and stuffed animals.
Say it with Music
“Statue”, “Freeze”, and “Hokey-Pokey” are fun musical games. They offer opportunities to listen and follow directions. They also teach about words and sounds and allow children to move and exercise their bodies. Toy drums, tambourines and other instruments add to the fun.
Act it Out
Encourage fantasy play by providing dress-up clothes and other props. Use items like hats, scarves, backpacks, bowls and containers, music makers, and whatever else you and your child can find. Join the fun! Help them expand their ideas and learn about their thoughts and feelings as they act things out.
Children can learn so much through play. Play is also important because it involves you! Perhaps nothing is more essential and rewarding than the enjoyment your child experiences from the time spent playing with you!
Amy Grossi is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, practicing for over 10 years. Amy enjoys the area of early language, literacy development, apraxia and fluency. She has a passion for working with children with multiple developmental needs and implementing creative and interactive treatment sessions.