Playing with your child helps with their confidence, development and overall wellbeing. Many parents make the mistake of trying to take the control of how their child plays. However, you should let them experiment with unstructured play, which allows them to go at their own pace and usually revolves around their interests at that moment.
The desire to play starts at toddler age, all the way through to early adulthood, however, babies, toddlers and young children have the instinct to play, which should initially be shaped by parents. As they move through the different phases of their life, the way they choose to play will change. Not all children find it easy to play.
Here’s how you can help your child’s development through play during the different stages of infancy:
Babies need constant attention and stimulation from an adult as part of their natural development, which also forms a close bond between the two of you. Quite simply, the best toy they can get is you!
Due to their lack of understanding, babies don’t need proper toys to play with – it’s all about stimulating the senses.
Singing and tapping their skin develops their movement and hearing, tickle time develops the sense of touch and dangling an object such as a bunch of keys encourages them to grab.
By toddler age, they’re much more aware of what playtime is and are old enough to explore their surroundings and experiment with their creativity. They tend to move around a lot more and are often able to entertain themselves. At this age its important to introduce toys for imaginative play as a way to channel their curiosity and creativity.
There are many ways you can get involved, such as colouring, playing with push-along toys and even visiting indoor play areas. As a parent, it’s important to be aware that the latter can sometimes pose several hazards, which should be noted before you visit. Take caution of sharp edges, hard floors and tight spaces such as tunnels which could potentially result in a back injury when crouching for long periods of time with your toddler.
Children under 5 years old
Children aged 5 and under are usually at nursery or school and have become more aware of other children, which tend to improve their social skills. They have also grown to become much more independent, assured and curious, which means they’re able to play with toys for a longer period of time without an adult.
There are many ways you can entertain your child under the age of five at home, by encouraging them to:
- Read books
- Play outdoors (e.g. football, hide and seek, scavenger hunts)
- Dress up as their favourite characters
What if my child doesn’t want to play?
There may be occasions when your child isn’t keen to play, which typically happens when they’re fed up of the same activity or in need of a nap. Don’t worry – this is very common.
If your child is constantly refusing to play, it can be one of the first indications of a developmental disorder. In this case, it would be advised to seek the help of a professional to get a potential diagnosis