By Fiona Low, Certified Practising Speech Pathologist
Play is more than just fun for your child. In fact, play is one of the most important things you can do with your child, as play is crucial for your child’s development. Children get to learn a lot from the time you spend playing together with them.
Did you know that children play from the moment that they are born? They experiment their own movements with their tiny fists, fingers, voices, make eye contact with their parents, observe what is happening in their environment. And when they develop more muscle tone and movement, explore and "play" with objects around them.
So, why is play so important to children’s development?
- Play helps children build confidence.
- Play helps children feel loved, happy and safe
- Play helps children develop social skills as well as language and communication skills
- Play allows children to learn about caring for others and the environment
- Play also helps children develop their physical skills.
Here are some tips to help you play with your child.
1. Follow your child’s lead
Observe your child in play. Notice what your child is interested in. You can also provide your child an object or a toy and notice what s/he does with the toy or object. Let him/her show you what s/he wants to do with it and join in his/her play.
You can imitate his/her actions on the object. If your child is playing with a car, grab another car and drive alongside his/hers. You can make fun sounds (eg. Weeee, vroom vroom, beep beep) when playing with the car. Remember, it’s okay if your child does not play with a toy the ‘right way ’.
2. Be at your child’s level (physically)
When playing with your child, not only is it important to engage in activities that are developmentally appropriate for your child, it is also important to get down to the child’s physical level. Make sure that you are face-to-face with your child. If your child is playing on the floor, get onto the floor to play with your child. This will ensure that you can both look directly into each other’s eyes. Being face to face with your child is important to help you bond with your child during play.
3. Respond with interest
If your child is trying to interact with you in play, please make sure to respond to your child enthusiastically to show him/her that you would like to participate in your child’s play.
4. Read your child’s signals
Your child may not tell you what s/he likes or dislikes. Observe your child’s facial expressions and gestures for signals to indicate if s/he would like to continue in the same play activity or if s/he would like a new play activity.
5. Practise, practise, practice
Although doing the same thing over and over again may not be the most thrilling thing for most mums and dads, it can be for your little one. If your child would like you to play with him again in an activity that s/he enjoys, let your child play with you. Repeating a play routine allows your child to practice many crucial play and language skills.
6. Create a language rich play environment
When playing with your child, describe your actions in play. For the little ones, use short phrases, such as ‘up and down’ to describe play actions. For older children, you can use longer phrases to help your child learn language through play.
7. Have fun!
Nothing is more important than having fun in play. Try and enjoy the process. When you are having fun in play, your child will most likely have fun playing with you as well.
Fiona Low, Certified Practising Speech Pathologist, works out of our Point Cook rooms on Thursdays and some Tuesdays.