If you’ve been following PLAY & GROW for very long, you know one thing for sure about me. I’m more than passionate, closer to obsessed about, providing play-based activities so children PLAY! And why? The reason is twofold. First, PLAY is instrumental for children to gain the knowledge, skills, concepts and capabilities that they need now. Second PLAY lays this important knowledge/skills foundation from which children build upon for use in the future.
The basic developmental domains in early childhood are: physical, social, cognitive, and emotional. And guess what? PLAY addresses all those areas!
One of the sad realities of childhood now, compared to a couple decades ago, is the decline of physical play. Especially outdoor play. Children are kept indoors at school; ostensibly for more learning. Trapped indoors after school, at care facilities or home, waiting for parents to return from work. It shouldn’t surprising, then, that childhood obesity is at epidemic levels. Also, type 2 diabetes, a condition that used to be confined to middle-aged adults, is now being diagnosed in children, children even as young as 10.
Physical Development & Play:
PLAY is a natural and healthy way to guide your child’s physical growth and development. Below are some play-based activities for physical development, both gross and fine motor. Have your kiddo:
●RUN—go fast, slow…start, stop and do it again—add a hill!
●ROLL, toss, and/or throw and catch balls
●BALANCE bean bags (or rolled socks) on their head and walk forward, back, sideways
●JUMP over cracks in the sidewalk
●HOP on 1 foot and then the other—go forward and back
●CLIMB a jungle gym –or tree
●CRAWL under a table and around the legs
●TIPTOE along a masking tape
●STRING beads, pasta or cereal onto yarn or shoelaces
●PAINT at an easel
One of the characteristics that marked the Digital Age was the rise of social media, and ostensibly, the ability to ‘be connected’ to your friends—anytime, anywhere. Ironically, studies seem to show just the opposite. Rather than making us more connected, social media seems to leave us feeling more lonely and isolated. And this isn’t good! Humans are not designed to be in solitary confinement—behind bars or behind a screen—it can do long-lasting psychological damage.
Play & Social Skills:
Look to PLAY for a child’s social skills to blossom in a safe and accepting environment. Children progress through many stages of PLAY before they are capable of the intricate, complex and nuanced behaviors necessary for Co-Operative Play. But keep in mind, each stage is valuable in its own right! Continue for some play-based activities aiding social development.
●PRETEND PLAY can be customized, depending on your child’s interest, to promote their social development. For example:
—–°Restaurant: Meals are meant for socializing! Provide dinnerware/utensils, plastic fruits and vegetables, placemats. Let your kidlet create menus; maybe add LED candlelight, a vase of flowers and tablecloth for some additional ambiance.
—–°Beauty Salon: Okay, admit it, you know you tell your hair stylist everything! Include brushes, combs, mirrors, curlers, maybe a curling iron (?!), gel, and hairspray. Since it’s a full service salon, provide fingernail polish (and fingernail polish remover!) or fingernail wraps.
—–°Medical Center: Offer dolls, masks, gloves, bandaids, pads, elastic wrap bandages for your little medical professionals. If available add tongue depressors, mini-flashlights, and blankets as well as toy stethoscopes and thermometers.
●PEN TABLE—At preschool, the pen table had all the necessary materials for kidlets to write letters. Snail mail isn’t all that common anymore so when people receive it they are very touched–especially if it’s from a young child! Stock your pen table area with paper, markers, stamps, stickers, stamp pads, stencils, and envelopes.
I believe all parents want the best for their children. Unfortunately, some businesses’ marketing goals, and what’s in the best interests for a child, may not be the same.
Just because a learning app or educational game is promoted as such doesn’t make it so. Parents need to understand their child won’t be any more ready or advanced by using tech-based activities. On the contrary, they could actually suppress their child’s development! In fact, a study showed just that when it came to speech development. Additionally, what’s appropriate for a 2nd or 3rd grader (or older) is not appropriate* for a preschooler. Honor childhood!
Brain Development & Play:
Once again PLAY has the answer. It provides a heuristic and holistic way for your child to test, experiment, discover, assimilate, extrapolate and infer—growing and exercising their thinking skills! Below are just some play-based activities that’ll help your child develop cognitively.
●SORTING/CLASSIFYING—removing items from container
●BOARD GAMES like CandyLand and Memory
●CREATING/BUILDING like Marbleworks
●EVERYDAY LIFE…Asking your kiddo “What do we need?” so they can help create a shopping list. Giving as much opportunity for your kiddo to make decisions, and learn from any resulting (harmless) consequences, as is possible!
•Being comfortable in your own skin standing up for your beliefs and principles
•Going to bat for those more vulnerable;
•Picking oneself up and trying again and again
These actions, and more, result from a solid self-esteem and self-confidence. Solid self-esteem and a high level of self-confidence contributes to:
-accepting disappointments when mistakes are made;
-and making changes or adjustments when things don’t go as expected.
In other words, their actions result from having a healthy emotional state.
Do you accept the premise that a parent’s job is to prepare their child to live independently? To contribute towards independence as to their abilities? If so, then you also have to accept that your child must engage in some degree of risk.
It’s a fact of LIFE:
All growth requires risk!
Sure it can be difficult for parents (I totally get it!) but it’s essential for your child’s development. So put your own fears on the back-burner; set your anxieties aside! If someone tells you you’re a helicopter parent—they’re not paying you a compliment.
Risk & Play:
PLAY is also where you’ll find age-appropriate risk-taking opportunities. This gives your kiddo the chance to assess their capabilities and then apply that info in other situations. It is also the ideal vehicle for expressing emotions in an appropriate way. The following are some play-based activities that’ll benefit your child’s emotional development.
●DOUGH, CLAY, SAND, WATER or RICE are examples of sensory materials—read about sensory activities
●ART activities (versus crafts) give children an outlet for self-expression
●PUPPETS allow children to role play scenarios and offer an appropriate outlet for emotions
●READING together consistently—building on a loving, trusting relationship; forming a deeper bond
For young children, a play-based environment is the best environment for their growth, development and learning!
Yours in Play!
*The exception to this hard-fast rule: IF the child is the one that’s leading with the parents solely trying to satisfy their child’s hunger for knowledge/appease their curiosity