Play is the way young children learn. It is one of the most important things parents can do to help children grow up smart and healthy. Playing helps children:
- Solve Problems
- Move Their Bodies
When kids are supported and encouraged by their parents, siblings, and grandparents, they gain confidence in their running, jumping, and playing abilities. When physical activity is fun for everyone, no one will want to be left out! Children learn while watching you and by playing. So make playtime fun!
Tips for Playing with Your Baby
Toys Are Everywhere
Your baby grows and learns by doing different things. Play is a great way for her to learn different skills. You don’t have to buy expensive toys–use what you have in the house! Plastic cups, wooden spoons, books, and art materials are all great toys and activities for your child to play with.
Playing with your baby is one of the best ways to help him learn and helps build your relationship. Not only will he love spending time with you, but he will also have fun learning from you and watching you do different things.
Encourage your child to play with toys that get her moving, like soft balls or large boxes to crawl through. The more she moves, the more she is developing physically and learning how to work her body.
Getting outside with your child is a great way for him to learn about the world around him. He will love watching all of the colors, animals, and flowers he sees. The outdoors is a wonderful place to learn.
Your baby needs your love and support as she grows, but it is also important for her to learn to play alone and independently. Safe, supervised independent play helps build self-confidence and teaches her how to explore her environment at her own pace.
Newborns to 12 months
Peek-a-Boo. Hide behind your hands, a towel, or even a diaper. As your baby gets older, he may laugh and wiggle with excitement. Peek-a-boo teaches him that you are there even when he can’t see you. He is also learning to predict what you will do next.
Sing and Dance. Listen to music! Research shows that listening to music can help with language and math skills. Try playing different kinds of music to see what your baby likes. Dance with your baby. This can be fun for mom and dad, too!
Play Ball. Give your baby a ball and let her explore. A small ball that fits in her hand (but is too big to fit in her mouth) will help her try out her pushing, reaching, and grabbing skills. Try balls with different colors or textures. Eventually your baby will learn to roll it, drop it in a box and take it out again.
Young toddlers 12 – 24 months
Get Physical! At this age your toddler is moving around more, and active play is a great way to use his energy and develop his movement and coordination. Try outdoor places like parks and playgrounds where he can safely run and climb. On a rainy day, try making an obstacle course indoors with pillows or cushions.
Name That Tune. Your child is getting better at imitating words and sounds. Try songs with words that rhyme and see if your toddler can sing along. And don’t forget to dance! This is a great way to get those arms and legs moving.
Pretend Play. Your child will begin to use his imagination when playing with toys. Anything can be a toy, including plastic spoons or plates, shoe boxes or toy cars. Follow your child’s lead and let him provide the ideas as you play.
Busy Hands. Your toddler is learning how to make things work. Finger painting, coloring, playing with dough – these activities let them use their hands and fingers.
Toddlers 24 – 36 months
Family and Friends. At this age, children are more social and actually start to play with each other. Visit the neighborhood park or a cousin’s house. Your child will begin to learn how to share. He can also learn new skills by watching other children.
Act It Out. Your toddler is starting to use her imagination a lot more. Pretend play can be fun with dress-up clothes or other items. A broom can be a horse or a blanket can be a magic carpet. Be sure and join in the fun. Your child loves when you get involved.
Quiet Play. Child’s play doesn’t have to be action-packed all the time. Your child will enjoy listening to stories or drawing pictures. These continue to help him learn language and imagination skills. Crayons, paper and paints are great activities. Or even sand, mud or dough.