The small bundle of joy in your arms will soon start exploring things around the house, and you probably love to see your child start playing. Children grow up in the blink of an eye, and play is an important aspect of their learning process, association to their environment, and exploration of new concepts.
Unplanned and unstructured play is common in children across the globe and not just pleasurable for the child, but it can be very crucial in child development as a child mimics what they see and hear during play. It is a creative process that helps them experiment with the knowledge they have acquired.
Benefits of play
- Cognitive benefits
A child in the early stages of life focuses a lot on their senses. The learning toys in the activity box that they touch and see creates a knowledge base that they re-enact during play.
Children who have not yet started to speak will still try to mimic when they see the people around them talk. Mostly it's just a cluster of incomprehensible sounds that they recreate as they want to feel included in the conversation.
Playtime is a creative process that helps a child develop interest, imagine, understand and execute critical thinking skills. It happens because a child's brain is overloaded with synapses, i.e., brain cell connections. If the sensory enrichment of play is not part of brain development, the synapses for such experiences will be absent.
- Physical benefits
The child's play will keep on changing and developing as they grow, beginning with small movements like learning to turn on the sides, sitting, crawling, walking, jumping, and riding a bicycle. These improve the child's motor skills. They understand the concept of balance, spatial relations, and overall body awareness. Once the child discovers a new skill like jumping, running, dancing, block building, they promote more motor skills like stamina, flexibility, etc.
- Social benefits
Beginning with easy sounds, a child will learn to form complete sentences and communicate with others during play. You cannot possibly make a year-old child sit down with paper and pen to teach language.
Children learn language naturally through the people around them. They begin by pointing and using associating words like water, eat, this, etc., to communicate with an elder. With time, they understand how words are matched to each other to communicate different things. For example, they associate the word "ma" and "pa" with parents, so they might use them with their primary caretakers as well because they do not understand the concept of parents. Instead, they use it as a term for people they feel safe around.
- Emotional benefits
Playtime is important for a child to learn about emotions and self-exploration. A child creates an identity for itself, and when they lose or win, they feel a sense of sadness or happiness respectively. They associate these feelings with winning and losing. Pretending to play like a DIY project for kids helps a child develop self-restraint and getting to agreements that further helps them in social behavior.
A child can play with an activity box with their caregiver, friends, or themselves with multitudes of educational toys in it. In each of these situations, the child uses their ability to think to create scenarios, make decisions and adapt to responses. These educational toys will help the child be creative with their surroundings.
The educational toys for 3-year-olds are beneficial in helping them learn new skills. Once the child starts an academic journey, their creativity will set them apart from the group and help them shine in any field.
What kind of play should we encourage?
1. For newborn babies to 6-months old (babies)
Exchanging smiles: When a child smiles at you, you smile back, and it creates a sense of comfort for the child.
- Imitate their sounds to pretend you are having a conversation.
- Use learning toys to get their attention and let them hold and feel them. Bright colors attract newborns and so try using them for your kids.
- Keep changing the baby's position so that they can see the room/ house from a different perspective.
2. Toddlers - 7 to 12-month-old
Let them crawl and explore, but make sure the sockets are taped, and the furniture edges are not sharp.
Let them explore their learning toys; for example, if a toy falls from their hand, let them understand that they need to go near it and hold it again.
- Use a mirror to let them see their reflection.
- Peek-a-boo is almost always an absolute favorite.
3. Preschoolers - 1 to 3- years old
Unstructured playtime is a DIY project for kids; that is easy, creative, and fun-filled. Let them have an activity box and some free time to explore what and how they want to play. Kids can pretend to play with educational toys for 3-year-olds toys to create make-believe play and acting out situations that teach many important social lessons.
- Building blocks are a good learning toyand DIY project for kids.
- Playing with other kids will create excitement, and this is when the real fun happens.
- Jumping, running, and kicking will not only be fun but very healthy.
4. School Kids - 4-6 years old
Books are a good educational gift for kids. Read the stories, and you can always recall stories you've read earlier to explain the recent story in relation or contrast. It will help them remember and make associations with different things in their mind.
Storybooks (for example: Adventure books) will help kids gain confidence and strength to move forward. Such stories are good for building a moral ground and introducing human behavior to kids.
There is no one set way to determine playtime for kids. Each child is unique and has inclinations to different ways and methods. Just give time to your kids and let them explore their relationship with you and themselves in a healthy environment.