Playing is nature’s own formula for learning.
Playful interaction is fundamental for the healthy development of your baby and toddler and it’s the most complete and effective way to stimulate him cognitively, physically, and emotionally. Early childhood games and play are nature’s way of fostering learning.
It’s so because play is a voluntary activity where children are receptive to learning while they play. In addition, experts in early childhood education and brain development emphasize that playful learning games help to associate the notion of learning with pleasure.
How to play in early childhood?
There are countless ways to engage your baby in playful learning from his earliest days. Here are a few ideas to foster a playful learning environment for your baby.
From 0 to 6 months
• Sensory stimulation: To activate your baby’s tactile senses, expose him to fabrics, feathers, and materials of different textures.
• Visual stimulation: Moving different objects above, below, and across your little one’s visual field is fun and interactive. His visual tracking skills will be stimulated through mobiles, baby gyms, or finger puppets.
• Proprioception: Building proprioception and spatial awareness allow your baby’s body to communicate with his brain. Rolling, tummy creeping, swinging, and dancing, all build proprioception. These skills are key for your baby’s coordination, focus, and balance.
From 6 to 12 months
• Cause and effect: At this stage, interacting with parents or caregivers using the simplest objects is a blast for your child. He will be thrilled to experience repetitive actions, such as rolling a ball, throwing objects through a tube, or playing Peek-a-boo.
• Auditory stimulation: Rattles, bells, and drums are also fun for your child and they give him a sense of control. “My actions shape my world. I shake the bell, and it rings. WOW!”.
• Kinetic stimulation: At this age, new motor skills are developing rapidly, which is why kinetic games take on special relevance, such as rolling, creeping, and crawling.
• Fine motor skills: To promote fine motor skills, try giving your baby sand or water to play with. Small plastic kitchen utensils, such as cups or bowls, new sponges, pots, and wooden spoons are awesome. You will see how your little one enjoys stacking and sorting, and you’ll be amazed at how his skills progress day by day.
Recommendations for all ages
• It’s important to remember that for effectively learning through play, the game must be fun, flexible, and, most of all, voluntary.
• Remember, a creative and motivated parent can always find ways to play and have fun. Adding learning concepts to your games will help your child to keep a positive attitude towards learning and develop important skills that he will need in preschool and beyond.
Playing and social skills
With all the emphasis on cognitive and motor skills, it’s also important to keep in mind that social skills are a key component of early childhood education. As your baby grows past the one-year mark, he’ll need other playmates of his size and age to play with. Learning to interact with peers will be a whole different ball game for him, especially if he’s an only child!
Whereas your baby gets to be the center of attention with you, your partner, and his grandparents, he’ll have to quickly learn to be perceptive of other children’s interests in order to interact successfully with them. By playing with other children his age, either on play dates or in a preschool environment, he’ll be learning to negotiate, cooperate, and share. For being happy and successful in school and life, social skills are just as important as cognitive, motor, and language skills.