Every parent knows exactly how much children love to play! For children, play is not just about passing the time -- play is their job. It's how they learn and how they relate to their environment. Through play children learn sophisticated skills like how to control their bodies, how to manipulate objects, colors, shapes, and language. While this sounds like a lot of work, for children it's a pleasure!
For parents, on the other hand, it can be difficult to know how to jump in there and play with their children. We are often so far removed from play in our daily lives that it can be hard to know where to start. Especially with babies and young children, it can be easy to hand them a toy and walk away. But, it is possible to play with young ones in an engaging and enriching way. Here are some tips for playing with your baby, toddler and preschooler!
Even the youngest babies can play! When playing with babies, there are a few things to keep in mind! First, make sure they are well rested and fed. It is as hard for them to work while hungry and tired as it is for you. For babies, play is all about discovering the world around them. Keep the toys simple, and try to avoid toys that are simply meant to entertain. Toys without flashing lights or sounds help to develop concentration and give you the opportunity to connect to one another. Other things to keep in mind:
-Narrate your play -- simply talking to your baby about what they are doing is a great way to engage in play
-Use the senses -- incorporate different textures, sounds, or tastes into your play
-Be present -- unplug and just focus on your child
-Try facing one another while you play so your child can see and study your face
Unlike babies, toddlers have started to figure out the world that they live in. Now, they want to explore and move!
Their play often includes wiggling, dancing, running, and jumping -- all skills they are working to perfect. Play also offers a time to work on new skills like color matching, shape recognition, other early learning. To engage your toddler try:
-Make playing a game
-Incorporate movement -- doing a puzzle? Try placing pieces around the room first!
-Get up and move yourself -- encourage movement by modeling it
-Keep talking -- toddlers are still working on language, narrate their actions, name colors and shapes
Play changes again when toddlers become preschoolers. Suddenly, everything is about pretending, imagining, and creating. Typical adult chores, like cleaning, cooking and self-care, become fun and interesting. Again, engaging in unplugged play helps preschoolers create their own scenarios and act them out. Instead of passive entertainment, true unplugged play gives them the opportunity to use their mind and body. When playing with preschoolers:
-Let them take the lead -- follow their play suggestions, interests, and imaginations. Let them be in charge.
-Listen as much as you talk and ask your preschooler questions
-Immerse yourself in their world -- use funny voices, follow the story line, and repeat familiar games
-Use play as an opportunity to model good manners and kindness -- when pretending don't forget to say please and thank you.
Most importantly, remember there really is no wrong way to play with your child -- at any age. What is important is just taking the time to play! Thanks for letting me share some tips with you today! Happy playing!
About the Author
Nicole Kavanaugh is a Montessori mom and blogger in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She spends her days playing and learning with 4-year-old Henry and 7-month-old Nora. Nicole loves all things Montessori, photography, and blogging. You can read more about her daily adventures at www.thekavanaughreport.com