Enter your child’s world through play. When you and your child play together, you foster connection. Think back to your own childhood. Do you remember your favorite ways to play?
There are many ways to support your child in play, including setting up the right environment, encouraging interactions and then stepping back, supporting problem solving, and joining him in play. There are so many ways to play! Consider the following:
Jumping, climbing, dancing, and skipping are all ways to enjoy physical play with your child. As movement skills develop, sit on the floor and roll a ball back and forth, or lie down and let your child climb on you while laughing and embracing together.
Active physical play has been associated with areas of brain development that help your child learn to self- soothe, control impulses, and develop motor planning, sequencing, and organizational skills.
Give your child the freedom to create fun projects. Make art with your child using washable markers, crayons, paint, and stickers.
Creative play allows your child to tap into imagination while developing his fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Creative play reflects and supports your child’s evolving cognitive capacities. It also gives the opportunity to learn from mistakes without facing consequences.
Encourage your child to play with blocks, cardboard boxes, and molding clay, which is messy, but feels cool! As your child grows, he will play in increasingly sophisticated ways, from counting to stacking to building complex models of houses, cities, or even dinosaur habitats!
Construction play helps your child learn about space, patterns, and shapes, which lays the foundation for later learning about math. When your child plays with others, he can gain experience in cooperation, problem solving, and turn taking.
Children love making up stories and acting out their fantasies. Encourage your child to make up a story or situation and act it out together. You can start by saying to your child, “Let’s pretend!” Then, let your child lead the way. For instance, you can play house and have fun planning the menu for a dinner party, practice cooking (using plastic food and dishes), and even plan the guest list together.
Pretend play encourages creative thinking, expression, problem solving, and empathy. It may help your child conquer fears or even change reality by pretending to send a baby back to the hospital.
When you and your child play together, you can each pretend to be someone else. You can each become characters, such as a firefighter, a princess, a teacher, etc. Have costumes or old clothes, hats, shoes, puppets, or dolls available to use. You might act out a rescue mission during play, while you play the firefighter and your child plays the police officer.
Through this type of play, your child learns how to hold his own role (the police officer) and those of others (the firefighter) in mind. This helps your child learn to be flexible and adjust to the twists and turns in the evolving plot.
Unplug and play! It’s not only great for your child’s development—you’ll also be making memories. There’s no app for that!