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Understanding the Importance of Playtime!

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for me! Two weeks ago my oldest daughter turned 12 and last week my baby girl turned 1! I am all partied out now, but I enjoyed celebrating both of my girls. I count it as a blessing to see my children grown and thrive – and I love celebrating life!

I am a Mom first, but I always have my SLP eyes on too. This past weekend, we invited friends and family over to celebrate our baby’s first birthday. As I watched all the children, I couldn’t help but observe playtime. There were many different types of play that were present. The older children engage in various activities. They completed crafts, created games, and even invited the adults to participate in their imaginary play. The toddlers, on the other hand, had a different style of play. They tended to watch and look and engage in solitary play with objects. “Playing together” doesn’t truly happen for babies/ toddlers until later as they are not developmentally ready for that kind of interaction.

The first year is full of many milestones – sitting up, rolling over, crawling, walking, first words. Sometimes we don’t place enough emphasis on playtime and the social language and growth that occurs during the first year as well. Play skills are at times left out of the conversation when discussing what happens during the first years. From social smiles to peek-a-boo these skills are crucial for language development.

Toddler play can best be described as parallel play. Children may be seated side by side interacting in their own activities, but they do not actually interact with one another. It may appear that they are ignoring each other, but they are actually watching and learning while being close to each other. As your toddler gets older, their play should become more developed. By the age of 2 children will interact with one another and you will see more turn taking and shared activities.

Whatever the age- playtime is special, fun, and crucial to children’s development. Play is their “work” and their way of figuring out their world.

Here are some tips from Zero to Three to keep in mind as you play…

  • Any activity can be playful to young children, whether it’s rolling trucks back and forth or sorting socks. And any type of play can offer multiple opportunities to learn and practice new skills:

  • As a parent, you are your child’s very first and favorite playmate. From the very beginning of your child’s life, he is playing with you, whether he is watching your face as you feed him or listening to your voice as you sing to him during his diaper change. He is at work, learning and exploring.

  • Follow your child’s lead.

  • Go slowly.

  • It’s great to show your child how a toy works, but try to hold off on “doing it for him” every time. You can begin something, such as stacking one block on another, and then encourage him to give it a try. Providing just enough help to keep frustration at bay motivates your child to learn new skills.

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat! It may not be fun for parents, but children learn by repeating activities over and over again.

Have fun!

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