Children learn everything through play, in fact to a great extent, we all do. Play, especially with others, offers children continual opportunities to trial their ideas without fearing mistakes. It allows them to experience tough ideas in ways they can manage. And through the experiences they are gaining now they are creating memories and gaining the knowledge that all their future processes of learning will rely on.
How does “heavy” feel?
What does it mean to be an explorer?
How does it feel to be powerful?
Concepts such as weight and measure cannot be fully understood until they have been experienced. The realities of other peoples’ lives cannot be considered until we have tried them out. Play allows children to develop social, emotional and behavioural responses. And though their shared experiences and social interactions your child is exploring distant and imagined lands. It allows their language ability and vocabulary to grow. It is in fact the language of childhood, without which, future learning opportunities would be restricted.
Keeping it real
The trick to really engaged play is all about keeping it authentic. Where you can, offer your child real items to play with. Set up a post office with real envelopes to “address”, penny stamps and somewhere to post. This will be infinitely more fun that a bought imitation. As they get older, help them address and post their letter to a friend or family member who can then write back. Offer them real items from the garage or kitchen to play with. There is a reason this has been a childhood favourite for generations. A combination of metal spoons and pans, wooden spoons and bowls and plastic utensils will offer a range of sensory stimulation and possibilities. As they get older, increase their opportunities for imitating you as they explore all their uses.
Time to dress up and play house
From building forts with cardboard boxes to caring for dolls, pretending to grocery shop or setting up a carwash in the garden, these styles of imaginative play are a key way to expand your child’s vocabulary and foster their creativity. With a few cardboard boxes or some furniture and blankets, your child can have hours of fun. Try to include an entrance and an exit as you encourage greater movement and a couple of novel resources will add to the fun. The illusion of being hidden from you will also be hugely appealing, at any age. Where you can, allow their play to evolve over several days as they explore the possibilities, adding bits and pieces and returning to try out new ideas.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Encourage all your child’s social skills with an activity that they could not complete by themselves. This can be something as simple as a game of wafting scarves as you take turns copying each other’s actions. Start with arm movements when they are very young and build to movements that let them communicate through their whole body. A little older and offer them a “big” task that needs help and collaboration. This could be building a fort with some friends or organising a tea party together. Depending on the age of your child, give them as much support or independence as they need. But let them share their ideas, try different things and communicate what they think needs to happen next. If you can then scale things up to include objects they need to work together to move or plans that involve other people you can explore a range of social skills.
This article is taken from our course: What Every Parent Should Know
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. www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk
DEVELOPING EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL