Nurturing authentic play with your toddler

As your toddler’s capabilities are increasing, you can begin introducing them to more authentic play.  Boost these experiences by offering them real objects that they may see you or a family member using.  Or include things they might recognise from a nature ramble or a trip to a café or post office.  

Born with powerful motivations to grasp at any opportunity for learning, your active, independent thinker is learning about how the world works.  And you can encourage this by combining authentic opportunities and interesting experiences that reflect past experiences they may recognise. 

Nurturing authentic play with your toddler allows them to see what they can do – and get away with

Through trial and error, they are seeing which efforts are worth their time.  When they are offered personal choice and the chance to make social connections, they are learning about relationships and the other minds around them. 

All of which is enhancing their knowledge of themselves, the world and its people in highly personal ways

These processes used to happen automatically.  Through everyday routines, such as a walk to the shops, or playing with older siblings’ children would experience sensory rich moments, unconcerned with learning goals or downward pressures to succeed.

But we can lose sight of this within today’s busy, technology driven world where we can at once expect our children to manage so many mature demands, yet not give them the time or space to learn how.

Slow down and enjoy unstructured play time with and family and friends

As your child becomes more mobile, watch their play.  What opportunities do they have to move into different areas as the mood takes them?  Or to take their play outside for the increased stimulation and freedom that it offers?  How many different experiences do they have available?  What sensory stimulation is there? 

And as you watch how they play; consider how much they access the different things they have available to them.  How often do they go back and play with the same thing again?  How is their interest raised and promoted?  And can they do all of this within the time frames they require?  And if not… what specifically is limiting their actions, and can you do anything about it?  

As you develop features of Lifelong Learning within your toddler, support their achievements for all the years to come

Any activity that involves manipulating objects or perceiving subtle differences in size, especially when combined with fine motor control of the wrists and fingers is good for later reading and writing.  Using stamps, rolling pins or cutters may seem like simple activities, but for your toddler, they are developing this intricate muscle control. 

Opportunities to engage and experiment with authentic activities offers purpose to your child’s early efforts.  Especially when these are explored with great concentration.  Something that can only be directed by their own interests, not processes or activities they are being expected to master.  So look for these opportunities to nurture authentic play with your toddler.

This article is taken from our course: The Learning Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.


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