Play is necessary in a child’s development. Children learn skills that they will need to be competent and happy through adulthood. Following are some of the most important skills children learn through play:
Physical: These skills are developed through movement as your child learns to reach, grab, crawl, walk, run, climb and balance. Dexterity will develop as he or she plays with objects.
Language: Oral skills develop as a child plays and interacts with others. Early on, beginning with your child’s first “coos” and evolving to story and joke-telling, the ability to use language increases as your child continues to play.
Social: Interacting with others as well as learning to cooperate, negotiate, share, take turns and play by rules are skills learned early on that are necessary life lessons. Also, through imaginative or pretend play your child can begin to learn some of the roles and rules of society.
Problem Solving: Where does this puzzle piece go? Will that fit in the cup? What colors match? Questions such as these, as well as others help your child to begin to learn how the world works through developing problem solving skills with toys. As your child grows, so do the problem solving skills as toys and games become more challenging.
Self Esteem and Emotional Well-Being: Through positive play experiences, you child will feel successful and capable as they play, acquiring elements essential for emotional health. Sharing play experiences with parents and siblings also provides children with strong bonds that will carry on through life.
Since it is so important for a parent to be a child’s first and favorite playmate, not only do parents need to select the correct toys for their child, but also join their child in playing with those well-selected toys. The best play occurs when the parent, or other adult, takes an active role and plays with the child, rather than just providing the toys and overseeing the activity. Here are a few suggestions as to how you can get involved in your child’s play:
Observe: Take time to watch your child and find out what his or her skill levels and favorite activities are. Once you ascertain this information, introduce toys and play with your child with knowledge of what he or she can do with the object.
Follow: Let your child take the lead. You can add complexity to play, but let your child be responsible for determining what to play with and how.
Think Outside the Box: Be creative and let go of the notion that there is only one correct way to play with a toy. You’ll be surprised as to how many different ways you can play with one toy.
Have Fun: Don’t feel like playtime has to be a structured learning experience – you don’t have to test or stretch your child’s skills. Everyone is successful at playing, so, relax and enjoy your time together.
Your child will bring a great deal of energy and imagination to play with toys and constantly develop new and creative ways to play. Since there are so many different kinds of toys and many ways to play with them, you child will learn that the world is a diverse place with endless possibilities. Toys and play time has an exciting role in helping your child become a more mature, confident and creative adult.