The importance of play in your child's development

The importance of play in your child's development

Do you ever feel like your little one just wants to play ALL DAY? Sometimes, in our home, it feels like that’s all we do.

The first thing our 2-year-old says in the morning is, “Come play!” in combination with “outside” or “trucks”. 

It can feel like a frivolous activity and occasionally I’ll admit that playing with my kids makes me feel like I’m not getting anything done. 

But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Here’s some good news about play...

 

Did you know? Play is one of the most important ways that children learn. 


When your child plays, they learn about others, themselves and about their world. 

Children learn best when you build on their interests and follow their lead (you’ve likely already noticed that your little one loves to take the lead and have you follow!).  

So go ahead, spend as much time as you can playing with your kids today (this may be an hour, a morning, an entire day, or even just 5 minutes). 

However much time you spend playing with your kids, know that they are growing and learning from this precious time with you. 



Let’s look at some of the ways kids learn through play...


“Play lets your child learn:

  • how their body moves
  • to solve problems, cooperate and share
  • to use language and be creative
  • to think and use their imagination”

We understand that life is already so hectic and there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, let alone to get some much needed you-time to recuperate from everything that’s on your plate. 

So don’t feel pressured to play all day every day with your little one(s). 

Instead, try to schedule a time daily where your child can play with you and others. 

You never know how, by spending that focused time playing with them, it could benefit your child. The ways listed above, but it could also help them to play better on their own later or even to sleep better! 

I often find with my 2-year-old and 3-month old that they fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer on days where they’ve had more social interaction and play.


Wondering what some good options for play are? 


These are the 3 types of child’s play: 

(1) Active Play, (2) Creative play and (3) Pretend play.


Here are some examples of Active Play: 

  • When your child moves their arms, legs and bodies with purpose
  • When they roll, sit, and crawl
  • When your child pulls themselves up to standing and walking.

Kids need a lot of opportunities to kick, throw, run, walk, climb, crawl and grasp.


Did you know? 

“Active play can help your child:

  • Develop balance and strength
  • Cope with stress and learn to solve problems
  • Develop social skills such as flexible thinking, sharing, taking turns and learning to get along with others.”

One of the best ways to encourage your child to be active is by being active yourself. “Children of active parents are more likely to be active themselves.”


You may wonder if this is relevant to your newborn or young baby, and the answer is YES! 

It’s important for babies to be active throughout the day with floor-based activities like tummy time. This should always be a supervised activity, and your baby will likely also have a strong desire to see you during this activity as well. 


Our second type of play is Creative Play.

This is when “your child learns about their world by playing with the objects around them such as books, food, furniture, dishes, arts, crafts and toys. Creative play helps develop fine motor skills.”

Make pretend and storytelling can also help your child to be able to talk about and solve problems in their world. With this practice, it could even help them to be able to solve problems in the future.


Our third type of play is Pretend Play. “Toddlers and preschoolers learn about life and develop their imagination and social skills by pretending. Your child may pretend to take a nap, feed their stuffed animals or give their doll a bath.”


Here’s a recap…


As we mentioned earlier, finding the time to play daily can be challenging when you have so many other things on your plate.

Cherish the time you DO have to play with your little ones and don’t beat yourself up about the time that you don’t have.

These are some helpful tips to encourage play:

  1. Make the time (even just 5 or 10 minutes)
  2. Follow their lead
  3. Meet them at their level
  4. Have fun
  5. Give encouragement
  6. Make a play box
  7. Keep a list of play ideas and supplies”

Need another reason to play?

“When you take part in child-led play, it increases your child’s self-esteem and confidence.” This will help your child in other areas of life as well. 


With all these tips and reminders, play can feel like a chore. But remember, it is important to HAVE FUN!

“Focus on having fun and letting your child see how much you enjoy play time. Try to focus on playing with your child - even if you have a million other things to do.”

 

But what happens if they DON'T play?

We’ve looked at how play will help your child learn and grow, but did you know that the opposite (being sedentary - sitting or lying down for a long time while awake) can actually negatively impact your child’s growth?

This includes effects on their language skills, ability to learn and sleep patterns.”

Yikes! That doesn’t sound good. This is another reason to find any opportunities, however long they might be, to help your child move, play, learn and grow.

“Research tells us that children do best when they’re active throughout the day and not sedentary for more than 1 hour at a time, unless asleep. Sedentary (screen time, watching TV, playing video games, on the computer, mobile phone, tablet, sitting in a stroller or high chair).”

One exception is that “some activities like playing with toys, reading, drawing or doing crafts are encouraged to help with your child’s development, even though they’re done while sitting or lying.”


When you’re active, your child is more likely to be active too. Here are some things you can do to be more active as a family:

  • Play together.
  • Walk or bike to where you’re going.
  • Spend time outside playing and exploring.
  • Limit the use of playpens and infant seats.”

“I notice a difference in my kids when they play. After they’ve had a good day or a few hours of play, they tend to sleep better and have less tantrums.” Kelsey, Be Active Maternity



One last piece of encouragement...

“Play with your child every day. They want to spend time with you - they look up to you and want to learn from you. Playing together also makes the bond between you and your child stronger. Play is fun for the whole family and it helps you see the world through your child’s eyes.”

If you are feeling restricted by your current maternity and nursing clothing, check out these comfy options instead.

Written by: Kelsey @ Be Active Maternity

Source: AHS booklet (healthyparentshealthychildren.ca)

 


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