As our babies turn into toddlers their playing becomes more complex and with only once a day sleeps or even no sleep if they drop it, you have a whole day of entertaining on your hands! I am a huge promoter of play because this is mostly how children learn both physically and emotionally and if you can start that from the beginning, then you are setting your child up for many successes in their independent life. Yes children need to play just to play and have fun but with play comes so many opportunities to learn and develop.
So today we look at the toddler years and the importance of play for them. Toddlers will mostly play more than any other age as they don't have any other responsibilities like school and higher levels of sport, music and swimming lessons etc. Unlike babies who would spend their day in short spurts of feed, sleep and play routines and school kids who only have limited playtime, toddlers have hours of playtime at their disposal. Lucky them! So why not split that between playing for fun and learning through play? How can children learn through play? I'm about to teach you.
Your focus on a toddlers development is in the areas of physical skills, fine motor skills, language, social and emotional skills. All these areas can be taught and developed through play. No lessons, no textbooks, no school time routines, just flexible playtime in a range of activities. Below I have broken up each developmental area and some types of play you can do with your children. They can be easily adaptable to your child's age and what resources you have at home like toys, outside area etc.
Physical Development - toddlers mostly just want to run and climb so let them! It burns all their energy, keeps them fit and develops all their physical or technical word, gross motor skills. Go to a playground, they are full of opportunities for learning physical skills. Climbing, swinging, jumping, balancing, crawling through tunnels, their is an abundance of things they could learn without realising. Jump on a trampoline or dance to the Wiggles. Throw, kick and catch a ball. These will all help with hand eye coordination, posture, being aware of things around them (spacial awareness), body movement and brain function.
Fine Motor Development - for the wild toddlers, these activities can be a little more challenging but it doesn't have to be all sit down like you might assume. There was no way I could get Jack to sit down at a table and draw, or thread etc he just wanted to be outside kicking his soccer ball so I just found other interests for him. Make playdough and get your children to roll it into little balls or massage it with their fingers. If you are happy to do messy work at home (I prefer leaving these to preschool but sometimes I bring it out) then do some finger painting or let them paint holding a little paint brush. A neat trick I do at home is I cling wrap around the table, squirt some blobs of paint on the cling wrap and then cover with another layer and let them finger paint without the mess! Threading, sorting, decorating cupcakes, stacking cups, drawing, sticking or any craft really all help shape their skills for writing and hand eye coordination. Franklin loves sticking pipe cleaners into a colander. The most simple activity and great for fine motor with the bonus of him sitting their for a good amount of time doing it.
Language Development - this is all about communicating with your child and this can be done anywhere. Have them repeat words you say or point to things. You can take full advantage of this play when grocery shopping or going for a walk. Instead of thinking about your day and what you need to do, tell it to your toddler and involve them. Sing and teach them every nursery rhyme you know and if you don't like singing well that is what Play school and The Wiggles are for! Read a book every single day and you can do what we do which is read the same book over a few days. The first time I read it to them, the second they join in and the third we all read it. How many of your kids know Where is the Green Sheep off by heart? And did you know this is the first phase of learning to read? Did you know if you read a book to your child everyday before they start school, they have a greater chance of having a successful school outcome?
Social Development - this is beneficial for you and your toddler. It's all about playdates, playgroups, kids church, preschool, anywhere that your child is interacting with others. My tip is to get your children to socialise with all ages young and old because you socialise with them all differently so this is a great skill to have. I taught my kids that when an adult says hello to them, they say hello back. Yes that's manners but it's interacting socially as well. They know how to be social with a baby, how to be social with a friend their own age and how to be social with older kids and adults. I love watching my kids socialise with my nieces and nephews. Most of them are older kids, teenagers and adults so my kids have learned to talk to them differently than they would their own aged friends. Eva does begin to turn into a teenager but it's all learning! When they grow up and get a job, it's not going to be very handy only knowing how to speak and socialise with someone their own age!
Emotional Development - This is vital for toddlers and we are focussing on this a lot with Franklin at the moment. He gets extremely frustrated trying to communicate with us when he can't say any words. We are teaching him to show us what he wants and when he's angry how to calm himself down. As toddlers develop their language, it makes it easier to label how they are feeling so in time they can use that to tell you their emotion. Making happy, sad and angry faces are the easiest and first ways to teach your toddler about their emotions. When they do something to themselves or another you can talk them through what they are feeling. Falling over must have made you feel sad. Did Eva hitting you make you feel angry? Were you surprised to get a present? Did that noise make you feel scared? As you label their emotion you can add to your conversation how to deal with that emotion so in future they can do that independently without needing you to talk them through it. I'm talking about smaller issues here though as this never stops really. I still ring my mum and talk through my emotions to her and friends ring me to do the same. However these skills as adults have developed from starting as kids.
So why is it so important for your child to play? Because through play, your child learns to problem solve, which is a skill we use in our lives everyday whether we are at work or at home. They develop an imagination. They learn to interact with others and the environment they live in so they can make friends and later use these skills in their workplace. They learn to understand what they are feeling at times in their life and have the skills to identify the emotion and deal with it appropriately. Finally, to keep them healthy. That last one may sound odd but with statistics today of kids and adults dealing with obesity why not teach about our bodies from a young age?
On Friday I will be posting my Mumma of the Month, a great friend of mine and someone full of wisdom. Next week I will be finishing off my play series with children playing until the primary years, looking at ways other than technology that children can play and still learn doing it. If you want some ideas in any of these developmental areas to do with your child, feel free to email me and I will send you some activities.
© The Realistic Mum
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