Toddlers: The Importance of Play
Playing and learning go hand in hand when it comes to toddlers. Play is how toddlers learn. Hands-on play is necessary for toddlers’ intellectual, social, emotional, physical and of course language development.
Playing develops cognition.
I love witnessing those moments when I see the lightbulb go on. Like when Sammy realizes that if he pushes a button something pops up…changes color… makes a sound. These problem solving skills are further developed when toddlers play. NOT when they watch TV, look at flashcards, or play on tablets. Witnessing these critical moments and watching a child’s eyes light up in wonder is a magical experience. My Toddler Talks has 25 different play routines to foster problem solving skills.
Playing enhances attention.
When a toddler engages in an enjoyable activity, he will attend to it. And, when he can attend to something, he will learn. Increase those attentive moments by letting your toddler pick an activity of his choice. My Toddler Talks will train you how to follow your toddler’s lead thereby increasing his attention.
Playing makes parents feel good!
As a working mother, I know it’s hard to make time to play with your child. However, when I sit down and play with my 7 month old baby girl, I feel good about myself. Having those quality moments, when I am fully present and not working, checking my emails, or reading text messages, makes me happy. My baby girl, Kerri is also happy to be getting mommy’s undivided attention. New studies show that playing reduces feelings of guilt and stress in parents. Remember the quality moments are so much more important than quantity. Quality play moments are memorable and encourage bonding between parent and child. When I was growing up, both my parents worked. However, they made time to play silly games. Did this play last for hours upon hours? No! If anything they lasted for a short amount of time, but they were quality and they were fun. That’s the most important thing to remember – make it quality – especially when you’re pressed for time.
Playing promotes language development.
I could write a book about how play helps develop language – oh wait, I already did! Play skills and language development tend to develop in parallel. For instance, when a child begins combining two words together, usually they also start using two toys together when playing. For instance, Bella begins playing with a toy phone by pretending to talk into it by herself. Then, as her language develops and word combinations emerge, her play becomes more sophisticated. She pretends that her toy doll is talking on the phone. Hence, she’s transferring the symbolism from herself to the doll. The doll is pretending to talk on the phone. Why is this so important? For several reasons (which I carefully explain in My Toddler Talks), but I’ll just mention a few thoughts here. First, we have to remember to play at our child’s appropriate cognitive level. If your child is only using a few words in limited contexts, then it’s not appropriate to engage him in long elaborate pretend play schemes (e.g. playing with a dollhouse vs playing with a shape sorter). Most likely, he will not really understand the complexity of this type of pretend play. Playing on his level is most beneficial. Secondly, when we are playing we can target getting a child to request help, to label and name different toys, to protest (they may already be good at this!), to greet others, to answer questions, to describe…the list goes on. All these communicative functions and more can be targeted in the comfortable and secure context of play!
How do you play with your toddler? How do you feel after a “play session”?
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