Whether young or old, we all love to play and we all need to do it regularly. Sadly, as we grow older, some of us have become too consumed with day-to-day errands and activities and do not get to play as much. Some of us might have even forgotten how to play.
Having a child certainly forces many parents to start thinking about playing again. Research has shown the myriad of benefits of playing from a very young age. Not only does play give children numerous opportunities to make use of their creative abilities, playing regularly also encourages a child’s imagination and dexterity to bloom. Their physical, cognitive and emotional strengths are greatly enhanced through such activity as well. Undoubtedly, play is integral to healthy brain development. Social skills are cultivated too, as children learn to engage and interact in and with the world around them through play.
The intriguing thing about play is that it makes learning happen naturally and joyfully. While playing, a child laughs, explores, wonders and imagines in the most relaxing of ways.
Here are some ideas for age-appropriate playtime with the little ones:
Birth to 1 year old
Hold and touch your child as much as possible; physical contact makes him/her feel loved and safe.
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby, learn his/her cues. This also teaches your baby to trust you. Such two-way bonding promotes attachment between parent and child.
Babies love looking at faces and facial expressions. Make funny faces with your baby in front of a mirror, or point to the reflection of his nose, ears, and other parts of his body – this develops self-awareness and communication.
2 to 3 years old
Teach your child to sing his/her favourite nursery rhyme and make up a dance or movement to go along with it.
Give your child blocks to sort by shape or colour.
Let him/her use magnetic alphabets to form words and teach him/her to pronounce them.
Go to the playground with a friend’s child and help your children learn to play together.
Play glove or finger puppets to encourage communication.
4-6 years old
Ask your child to put one finger on your open palm. Tell a story and have a “key” word (e.g. happy). Tell the story, and when the key word is mentioned, try to grab your child’s finger. Your child will need to be alert to avoid getting caught.
Make a simple and nutritious snack together.
Play freeze-dance (turn on the radio and dance, then turn it off suddenly and tell your child that he/she has to freeze until the music starts again).
Exchange jokes and riddles.
As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Indeed, our children’s lives will be enriched if we take the time to let them play, but better yet, play with them. Nurturing the love for play and injecting a sense of fun into the most routine and mundane of tasks in everyday life will put our children in good stead. Helping our children develop the ability to find joy in all they do from an early age will benefit them greatly throughout life.
©2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Article contributed by Elvira Tan, Focus on the Family Singapore.