Your Tot's Job? Playtime
Young children need to play. It is critical for their development. My parents used to tell us, “Your job is school. You need to do well in school so you can do well in life.” And for school-age children, that is true. But for tots and preschoolers — and even children in elementary school in combination with their studies — their job should be to play.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides information and resources for parents regarding the importance of play. Key points in 10 Things Every Parent Should Know about Play, written by Laurel Bongiorno, include that play is a child’s context for learning. It is also promotes health and reduces stress.
How can parents support play in a meaningful way for their young children? In addition to Bongiorno’s suggestions to trust your own playful instincts, make time for play and include the outdoors, Lucian and Eva Frecea, creators of sigikid toys, suggest five basic playtime tips for parents.
The Frecea’s note that video games and other structured toys can become boring to children. Rather, they suggest stocking the playroom with dress up items, blocks, cars, stuffed animals and other toys that inspire imaginative play.
Less is more when it comes to toys. While a playroom filled with lots of things might seem great, it can be overwhelming. When you select a limited number of toys and rotate them in and out with other toys, the play space becomes more inviting and interesting.
Exploring the environment, breathing fresh air and incorporating natural items such as rocks, sticks and dirt all stimulate creative play. Scavenger hunts, building forts, “painting” with water and other outdoor play activities not only build foundational skills, but also enhance fine and gross motor skills.
Play with Them
When you play alongside your children, you foster deeper parent/child relationships. In addition, you get to know each child’s individual personality and interests, which helps you support each child on a more individualized and meaningful level.
Support Their Interests
Exposing your children to new things helps broaden their experiences as well as reveal their individual interests. Once you discover that your child likes animals, for example, you can incorporate the interest into the selection of open-ended toys, family trips — such as to the zoo — and story time.
While playtime provides opportunities for children to learn, it also helps them grow emotionally, physically and creatively. These aspects of play are discussed in depth in the article Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development by J.P. Isenberg and M. R. Jalongo.
So, if you want to prepare your child for success in school, college, career and life, you better get on the floor — or better yet, go outside — and start playing.