If you’ve been following PLAY & GROW for very long, you know I’m more than passionate, closer to obsessed about, providing play-based activities so children PLAY! And why? Because PLAY is instrumental for children to gain the knowledge, skills, concepts and capabilities that they need now, but also to build upon for use in the future.
The basic areas of development 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—and trapped indoors, after school at care facilities or home waiting for parents to return from work. I don’t think it’s surprising then, that childhood obesity is at epidemic levels and 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.
Look to PLAY to guide your child’s physical growth and development in a natural and healthy way! Below are some play-based activities for physical development, both gross and fine motor.
●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 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 is the rise of social media, and ostensibly, the ability to ‘be connected’ to your friends—anytime, anywhere. Ironically, studies seem to show rather than making us more connected, social media leaves us feeling more lonely and isolated. Humans are not designed to be in solitary confinement—behind bars or behind a screen—it can do long-lasting psychological damage.
Look to PLAY for 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. Keep in mind, each stage is valuable in its own right! Below are some play-based activities for 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, vase of
flowers and tablecloth for some ambiance….
—–°Beauty Salon: Okay, admit it, you know you tell your hair stylist everything! Provide brushes, combs, mirrors, curlers, maybe curling iron (?!), gel, hairspray…since it’s a full service salon, include fingernail polish (and fingernail polish remover!) or fingernail wraps
°Medical Center: Include dolls, masks, gloves, bandaids, pads, elastic wrap bandages, tongue depressors, mini-flashlights, blankets, perhaps toy stethoscopes and thermometers
●PEN TABLE—At preschool, the pen table had all the necessary materials for the kidlets to write letters. Snail mail isn’t all that common anymore and people are very touched to receive it…especially if it’s from a young child. Provide paper, markers, stickers, stamps, 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. It may surprise parents to realize that defaulting to any form of technology, just because they promote learning apps or have other educational games, isn’t necessarily going to make their child any more ready or advanced than any other kiddo and could actually suppress their development. In fact, a recent study showed just that when it came to speech development. What’s appropriate for a 2nd or 3rd grader (or older) is not appropriate* for a preschooler.
Look to PLAY for a heuristic yet holistic way for your child to test, experiment, discover, assimilate, extrapolate and infer—growing and exercising their thinking skills! Below are 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 “What do we need?” for them to 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/principles; going to bat for those more vulnerable; picking oneself up and trying again…and again—these actions (and more) result from solid self-esteem/self-confidence; respect for others; accepting disappointments and making adjustments…in other words having a healthy emotional state. If you accept the premise that a parent’s job is to prepare their child to live independently, contributing as to their abilities, then you also have to accept that your child engages in some degree of risk. It’s a fact of LIFE: All growth requires risk. It can be difficult for parents (I totally get it!) but it’s essential for your child’s development to put your own fears and anxieties on the back-burner! If someone tells you you’re a helicopter parent—they’re not paying you a compliment….
Look to PLAY to provide age-appropriate risks giving your child opportunities to assess their capabilities that they can apply in other situations. It is also the ideal vehicle for expressing emotions in an appropriate way. Below 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 being 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