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Baby development

Why It’s So Important to Play With Your Kids

It’s not only fun but integral to their development

Why It’s So Important to Play With Your Kids

Source: Getty

As a parent, you wear many hats: caregiver, chef, personal assistant, playmate and teacher. From the moment your little one is born, they look up to you to guide them through the world and help them learn about it.

And while it won’t always be easy (just wait for the terrible twos and adolescence), while your baby is brand new and you've already worked your way through the newborn checklist, their education shouldn’t feel like work. In fact, it should feel like play for you both. This is why it's so important to play with your kids.

Your role as your child’s first teacher

First and foremost, your role as an educator involves providing a safe and nurturing environment for your baby. This means creating a space where they feel loved, supported, and free to explore their surroundings.

As your baby grows and develops, you can begin to actively engage with them and help them learn about the world. This might involve reading to them, singing songs and playing games that encourage them to use their senses and develop their cognitive and motor skills.

Why play is important

Play is a crucial part of a baby’s development. Through play, babies learn about the world around them, develop their cognitive and motor skills, and form social connections with others. Here are five ways play benefits your baby.

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  1. Brain development: Play is essential for the healthy development of a baby's brain. When babies engage in play, they are developing their neural connections and building pathways in their brains. Play also stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps promote healthy brain growth and development.
  2. Motor skills: Play is a vital way for babies to develop their motor skills. Activities such as crawling, reaching and grasping help babies develop their gross and fine motor skills. Playtime also promotes coordination, balance, and spatial awareness.
  3. Language development: Play is an excellent way for babies to develop their language skills. When babies play, they are exposed to new words and sounds, which helps to build their vocabulary and improve their language comprehension. Play also provides an opportunity for babies to practice communicating with others, which helps to develop their social and emotional skills.
  4. Social and emotional development: Play is an important way for babies to develop their social and emotional skills. Play allows babies to practice social interactions, such as taking turns, sharing, and cooperation. It also provides an opportunity for babies to express their emotions and learn how to regulate their feelings.
  5. Creativity and imagination: Play is an excellent way for babies to develop their creativity and imagination. Through play, babies can explore different ideas and concepts, experiment with different materials, and use their imagination to create their own stories and scenarios.
Mom and daughter laying on bed reading Source: Getty

Teach your baby through play

Playing is a great way to bond with your little one while helping them develop important skills. Follow these tips for educational play time your baby will love.

  1. Be present and attentive: Play requires your full attention and presence. Try to set aside distractions, such as phones or other devices, and focus on your baby. This helps them to feel valued and respected, and it also helps to build trust and a sense of safety.
  2. Provide a safe and stimulating environment: Ensure that your play area is free from hazards, like electrical cords, small toys or basically anything you don’t want your baby to grab and put in their mouth.
  3. Start simple: Babies don't need fancy toys or complicated games to have fun. Start by playing simple games like peek-a-boo, tickling or making funny faces. These games are easy for babies to understand and can help them develop their social and emotional skills.
  4. Follow your baby's lead: Babies have their own unique personalities and interests. When playing, try to follow your baby’s lead and engage with them in activities they seem to enjoy. This will help your baby feel more comfortable and confident, and can also help foster their creativity and independence.
  5. Use positive reinforcement: Encourage your baby's efforts, and offer positive feedback when they achieve something new. This helps to build their confidence, self-esteem, and motivation. Avoid negative feedback, as this can be counterproductive and lead to feelings of shame or anxiety.
  6. Use everyday objects: You don't need expensive toys. Everyday objects like pillows, blankets and kitchen utensils can be used to create fun and engaging games for your little one. For example, you can use a blanket to play peek-a-boo or spoons to make music.
  7. Sing and dance: Babies love music and movement. Singing and dancing with your baby is not only fun, but it can also help develop their language and motor skills. Don't worry about being the best singer or dancer, your baby will love it no matter what.
  8. Get down on their level: Getting down on the floor will help your baby feel more connected to you and can also help them develop their visual and spatial skills.

Remember, playing with your baby is not about being perfect or doing everything right. It's about spending quality time, having fun and helping your baby develop essential skills.

Author:

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Susie Beghin wants to give children the best start in life. It’s why she founded Alpha’s Discovery Kids in 2012, a daycare and preschool dedicated to providing quality education and a positive learning environment. Within bright and cheerful classrooms and outdoor exploration spaces, little ones participate in Alpha’s Discovery Kids’ enriched curriculum, designed to develop the whole child.

By becoming an Early Childhood Educator, Susie was fulfilling her dream of owning her own education-focused daycare while helping children reach their full potential. Now, Susie shares the foundation of Alpha’s Discovery Kids’ beloved and celebrated inquiry-based curriculum in her new book, Learn to Play: The Four Pillars Learning System. 

Learn to Play: The Four Pillars Learning System, a must-read for all parent-to-be or parents with young children! In the book, Susie shares her teaching method with parents and educators as a tool for learning both at home and in the childcare setting. For each pillar of learning, there are strategies on how to build skills as well as sample free-play and intentional play activities – by age group, from infants to preschoolers.

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