Watching your child play is one of the most enjoyable moments of being a parent. The laughter, the smiles, it’s all amazing, but play is more than just for fun. It is one of the most powerful tools aiding you child’s development.
Play allows your child to experience different things in a safe, familiar environment. For example, when developing social skills such as sharing, your child is more likely to share their favourite toy with a teddy or a doll before other children. Play also encourages your child to use all five of their senses (touch, taste, hearing, smell and sight).
What types of play are there?
During a child’s first year, interaction between you and others around them is vital. Children like to smile and laugh along with the people around them while older babies enjoy games such as ‘peek-a-boo’. With Lily, we used to put a piece of material of her head and let her pull it off so that she could get involved in what was going on.
Children aged between 4-10 months thrive on object play. It allows them to experiment with the way different materials touch and what noises they can make.
Functional and representational play
Pretending to use everyday items in the correct way. For example, pouring a tea-pot, is great fun for children aged between 1 and 1.5 years. It’s at this age where their imagination really begins to come alive and thrive on the world around them. At the moment, this is exactly what Lily loves to do. She sets up her picnic basket, gets her tea set and pours tea for everyone in the room.
Early symbolic play
When your child hits the age of two, this will become one of the main types of play. It’s basically creating something out of nothing. An example of this would be when your child takes an old box and turns it into something like a rocket or a car. This will normally be associated with various noises such as mimicking the sound of the car.
At around 30 months your child will become quite the little actor or actress. Their imagination will start to play out the different roles they see in society and everyday life. This includes playing games such as ‘mums and dads’, ‘doctor’ and ‘teacher’.
Playing also allows you and your child to get to know each other. It lets you see how they interpret rules and how they react when those rules are broken. Encouragement is also key. If you encourage your child to play, they will willingly do it more often and get more out of it.
One thing people ask me is how do you know what toys are suitable for what ages. If you shop online, you can usually filter through search for specific ages. These ages are also displayed on toy boxes. If your still unsure, ask one of the sales assistants. I’ve found Mothercare extremely helpful when toy shopping. I’ve told the sales assistant what it is I’m trying to encourage Lily to do and they have always suggested the perfect toy. Head over to their website now to take a look at the great selection.
Until next time…