Play is a cherished and memorable part of childhood. In addition to offering joy and a sense of security, play is important for childhood development. In effort to provide optimal growth and physical maturity, it is imperative, that play accompanies all aspects of our child’s daily life and routine to include home, academic, and social experiences. Safe play should be offered to every child. Play provides an opportunity for children to express their creativity while developing imagination, dexterity, and problem solving skills. In addition, play promotes physical, emotional, and cognitive strength. Play is critical in our little ones healthy brain development. Through play, our babies learn to engage and interact with the world around them. Our kiddos learn to create, explore and practice safe independence in a playful world that they can master. This helps them overcome childhood fears, build self-confidence, and strengthen resilience. Studies done by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Harvard Medical School indicate that our children are not getting enough playtime. Recognize the benefits of play and seek opportunities to increase playtime in your homes. As you follow my top 5 tips for play during each developmental phase, you will strengthen your parent and child relationship and promote healthy child development.
Lead, guide, walk beside
As you stay present through this phase you will find opportunities to lead your child to learn, guide them through their milestones, and walk beside them as you cheer and encourage their initiative and independent learning.
Encourage safe learning through problem solving, cause and effect, and appropriate autonomy. Foster proactive learning as your child asks questions and explores their surroundings.
Provide play time
Make playtime a priority for your little one now! Ideally, your child should be exposed to independent, peer, and parent play.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages consistent independent or solo play. Their research promotes this form of play as a healthy and essential part of childhood. This time should be used for the child to be creative, reflect, and decompress. Independent or solo playtime should be non-screen time. While parents can monitor play for safety, the goal of independent play should be child driven rather than adult directed. When play can be child driven, children practice decision-making and problem-solving skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately, engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.
- Peer play allows children to learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflict, learn self-advocacy and empathy, and express emotion to others.
- Much of play involves the child’s parent or caregiver. This play promotes child, parent bonding, and fosters everyday daily teaching moments. As you direct, and redirect your child throughout the day you provide purpose, promote learning, and offer guidance.
Strive for a balanced role in your parent and child play. When play is controlled by adults, children comply to adult rules and concerns and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership, and group skills.
Your role as the coach
Children of all phases are motivated to work toward achievable goals. As parents, one of our essential roles is to coach our children towards success. As they work on reaching milestones, help provide an environment that will encourage achievable goals and positive praise.
Learning play provides a great opportunity to promote autonomy. As you recognize your child’s natural developmental needs, you can encourage growth, foster learning, and promote appropriate autonomy.
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Resources: Center for the Developing Child Harvard University and The American Academy of Pediatrics