Play is natural for young children. It is also important because it impacts their social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. Through play, children learn about shapes, colors, cause and effect, and themselves. Play is a way of communicating joy, fear, sadness and anxiety.
Parents know that play is good for children. When at play, children are busy and enjoy themselves. Seeing your child smiling and having fun brings joy and satisfaction to you as well. What you may not always know or focus on is how play is really helping your child develop.
Play is essential to a child's healthy growth and development. It is the basis for the skills your child will develop and use later in life. Play is how children learn it allows them to begin understanding the world around them and how they fit into it.
Children learn by moving, touching, tasting, seeing, smelling and hearing.
Infants don't necessarily "play" in terms of the way we think of play until they are able to walk and move freely. But, they do learn by interacting with parents and others.
Infants learn language by listening to it and having it spoken to them. Talk, sing, read to your infant even if it seems silly. The emotional connection with your infant is so important because it will help them become better learners as they grow and develop.
As toddlers are able to crawl and walk, they begin to explore their environment and start to "play." Preschoolers play becomes a way of imitating real life experiences and practicing social skills as they begin to play with other children.
As parents, we need to encourage our child's emerging developmental skills as they play. Children need praise and encouragement don't be afraid to give your child a supportive cheer for their playtime accomplishments.
Just remember there is no "right" way to play with your child parents are as unique as each child is unique. Learn to play with your child, be frivolous, be silly, read, talk, sing, love and hold them. This is the groundwork for the adult they will all too soon become.
Mary Welsh RN, BSN, is service coordinator for Huron County Help Me Grow/MRDD.