When your child plays, they learn about their world, themselves, and others. Play is about letting your child take the lead to create, build, and explore. Play builds healthy bodies and minds, and is important for your child’s mental health and well-being.
Play also gives children the ability to:
Some types of play
Active play involves active, whole body movements. Examples of active play include running, jumping, kicking, throwing, and catching. These movements form the basis for more complex movements.
Pretend play helps children learn about the world and develops their imaginations. Children’s imaginations have no limits: a piece of cardboard could be a flying carpet and a broom could be a galloping pony!
Creative play allows children to use their hands and minds to build and create. This type of play includes arts and crafts, which promotes self-expression and fine motor skills development. Playing with blocks and puzzles develops eye-hand coordination and problem-solving skills.
Play where children decide for themselves what they want to do and how to do it is valuable because it gives them time to:
All children learn through play. Play helps them balance daily routines with the chance to unwind. When it comes to play, keep the focus on fun. Learning follows naturally when play is fun. Let your child take the lead.
Play with your child every day. Your child wants to spend time with you - they look up to you and want to learn from you. Playing together also makes the bond between you and your child stronger. This supports their healthy growth and development - and play is fun for adults, too!
Here are some tips to encourage play:
1. Make the time. Set aside time every day to play with your child. Schedule periods of playtime throughout the day. Include other family members whenever possible.
2. Follow your child’s lead. Let your child decide what they want to do and follow their lead. Watch what your child does, then wait and listen as they show you what to do. Remember, every child is different.
3. Make a play box. Keep a list of play ideas and supplies. This will save you from scrambling to find things for your child to do - and the variety will keep your child interested. Don’t forget that household items can make fun toys, too! Turn socks into hand puppets or into balls to play catch with.
4. Meet them at their level. Get close to your child and make eye contact when you play together. This shows your child that you are interested in what they are doing. If they are playing on the floor, sit beside them. When adults take part in play, children learn by watching their movements, which increases children’s self-esteem and confidence.
5. Give encouragement. Notice and comment on what your child is doing. If your child is playing with a red car, avoid instructing them about what to do with the car. Instead, you could say: “You put the man inside the red car. Where is he going?” Noticing, commenting, and giving encouragement helps to improve children’s self-esteem and language skills.
6. Have fun. Try to minimize distractions when playing with your child, even if you have a million other things to do! Focus on having fun and letting your child see how much you enjoy playtime with them.
The Healthy Parents, Healthy Children team is a part of the larger Healthy Children and Families’ team at Alberta Health Services. Find them on Facebook at Healthy Parents, Healthy Children or follow on Twitter @AHS_HPHC. For questions or comments, contact email@example.com.
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