Playing with your child is not only fun, it's one of the most important ways you can nurture their development.
Through play, children learn about the world around them. They try out new skills, explore their imagination and creativity and learn about relationships with other people.
Play combines fun and interaction while helping the child improve a skill or experience something new. Children have an internal motivation to learn. Play does not require planning, props or toys. In fact, you are your child's favorite toy.
Try to slip a few moments of social play during your every-day routines. For example, play with your child during bath time or while he or she is riding in the shopping cart at the grocery store. Many spontaneous moments of social play spread throughout daily activities can be more fun than one long or planned play session.
It is also important to pay attention to your child's mood. Watch their facial, vocal and body expressions. Sometimes your child may be in the mood for more active social play such as bouncing or tickling. Other times, he or she may enjoy quiet social games such as watching mom or dad smile at them and talk to them.
If they are tired or cranky, your child may not want to play at all.
Follow your child's lead. Let your child respond to toys and activities in his or her own way. Continue to build on what the child seems to enjoy. Share interest, excitement and joy.
Remember that every child is different. Each child learns in different ways and at different rates. Through observing and participating in play, you become aware of your child's development and readiness to learn.
When parents play with their children, those children learn they are loved, important and fun to be around. These are important social emotional skills that will give your child the self-esteem and self-confidence he or she needs to continue building loving and supportive relationships all their lives.
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SOURCES: Zero to Three Journal (Help Your Child Learn Through Everyday Play), Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP) and Partners in Parenting Education (PIPE)
Lindsay Clouse is one of the service coordinators for the Huron County Help Me Grow program. BUILDING BLOCKS TO PLAY
Follow your child's lead
Offer guidance and encouragement