We all know playing is fun, but did you know it’s also the most effective way for children to learn? Through play, children can practice all the skills they will need as they grow up.
Play is important to children as it is spontaneous, and in their play children use the experiences they have and extend them to build up ideas, concepts and lifelong skills that they can carry with them in later life. While playing, babies and children can try things out, solve problems, take risks and use trial and error to find things out and be creative. Babies and children have to experience play physically and emotionally. In other words, it is not enough to provide stuff to play with. The most important element for young babies is the parent or primary caregiver. It is that person who forms a close emotional bond with the baby. A child with this secure attachment feels able to rely on their parents or caregivers for safety and comfort, develops knowledge about communication and language, and uses these important attachment relationships as bases from which to explore and learn about the world. Below are ideas of enhancing playing:
- Get together lots of different things for your child to look at, think about and do.
- By making what you are doing fun and interesting for your child, you can get your chores done while they are learning.
- Make sure there are times when you focus completely on your child.
- Talk about anything and everything, even the washing-up or what to put on the shopping list, so you are sharing as much as possible and your child will pick up lots of new words.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of opportunities to use their body by running, jumping and climbing,
especially if you don’t have much room at home.
- Find other people who can spend time with your child at those times when you really do need to focus on something else.
PLAYING WITH YOUR CHILD
To grow and develop, children need time and attention from someone who is happy to play with them. Gradually they will learn to entertain themselves for some of the time, but first they need to learn how to do that. It can be hard to find the time to play with your child, especially when you have plenty of other things you need to do. The answer to this can be finding ways of involving your child in what you are doing, even the chores! Children learn from everything they do and everything that is going on around them. When you are washing up, you can let your child join in, for example by washing the saucepan lids; when you cook, you can show them what you are doing and talk to them as you are working. Getting them involved in the things you do will teach them about taking turns and being independent, and they will also learn by copying what you do. Sometimes, things need to happen at certain times, and it’s important that your child learns this. But when you are together, try not to work to a strict timetable. Your child is unlikely to fit in with it and then you will both get frustrated. There is no rule that says the washing-up has to be done before you go to the playground, especially if the sun is shining and your child is bursting with energy. As far as you can, move things around to suit you and your child’s mood.
Children love using their bodies to crawl, walk, run, jump and climb. The more opportunities you give them to burn off some energy, the happier they will be. You will probably find they sleep better and are more easy-going, too. By giving them the chance to exercise, you will be helping their muscle development and general fitness, and laying down habits that will help them grow into fit, healthy adults. Here are some ways to keep your child active:
- Let your baby lie down and kick their legs.
- Babies should be encouraged to be physically active through floor play and water play in a safe environment.
- Once your baby has started crawling, let them crawl.
around the floor. You will need to make sure it’s safe first.
- Children of preschool age who are capable of walking unaided should be physically active for at least 180 minutes (three hours) spread throughout the day.
- Let your toddler walk with you, rather than always using the buggy.
- Toddlers and young children love going to the park where they can climb and swing, or just run around.
- Toys that your child can pick up and move around will help improve their co-ordination and develop the muscles in their arms and hands.
- There may be activities for parents and children at your local leisure centre.
- You can take your baby swimming from a very young age. There is no need to wait until they have been immunised.