Because our children learn by doing, play is a great way to encourage and nurture their mental, emotional and physical development. But how many toddlers do you know who will sit down for some learning or stretch out before a bit of cardio? Games need to be engaging and fun if we are going to hold their interest.
Some children take to play naturally and can easily entertain themselves and others without any prompting. Others respond well to a little guidance.
If you want to engage in some toddler games, try:
Social play – where kids play as a group. It may be that each child is actually “in their own world” here, but there is cooperation and a shared experience. This is where kids use their imagination and learn social skills and empathy.
Construction play – this utilises toys or tools to create something. Perhaps they are playing with dolls or action figures, blocks or sand. It all helps them to hone their problem-solving and motor skills, as well as their self esteem.
Practice play – this allows kids to refine their learned and motor skills as they work on a simple task, such as catching, throwing, kicking, or hopping. This is a great one for parents and carers to join in with, as they mimic you and build their confidence.
Sensory play – engages the senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Toys can be part of the experience, but exploring the world is a much more immersive way for your little one to understand movement, texture, colour, light and noises.
Playing with a child is the closest we can get to reliving our childhood. The benefits of playing with your little one are endless – for both of you.
5 Tips for toddler play:
Let your child pick the activity or toys. Give them some options and then let them decide how the play will evolve.
Try not to worry about how much mess is made. No one likes cleaning up after a play session, but as long as there is no danger, let your kids make a bit of mess. It’s all part of the fun.
Get on their level. Allow yourself to be physically and emotionally on their level. Talk in small caring words so there is no barrier between you. Get on the floor and don’t worry about being silly. No one can make your bub giggle like you can. Let loose.
Keep your toddler as your focus. Watch, listen and validate your child as they play. You are the centre of their world and the way you respond means a lot to them. If they are lost in play, let them be in their own world until they want to engage with you again.
Have fun. These are some of the most precious parts of being a parent. Be present and enjoy!
The first years of our kids’ lives are the among most important for their growth and development. This is the time when good habits are set and the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle are put in place.
The benefits of regular physical play
Ideally, toddlers should take part in some form of physical play for 2-3 hours per day. It’s best if they are not sitting or lying still for more than an hour a day (except for when they are sleeping), and screen time should not be their main focus.
Aside from having fun and getting rid of a bit of energy, physical play:
• Builds strong muscles, bones and cardiovascular health
• Improves mental wellbeing and socialisation
• Improves balance and coordination
• Heightens reflexes and reaction times
• Boosts confidence and self esteem, through task completion
For more information see Physical development or Toddler Games.