Many parents intuitively know why play is important to children, but despite its many benefits, we rarely associate play with learning. For most people, learning involves acquiring a specific new skill, such as memorizing alphabets, counting, writing, etc. They often believe that playing is only for fun and involves no actual learning. However, according to studies, playing is learning. Children learn through playing.
The importance of play in early childhood cannot be underestimated because playing is essential to a child’s growth.
Here are some pointers for parents who are not sure how to play with their very young children.
1.Relax and enjoy the activity. Do not try to take charge, but allow your child to take the lead. Your role is to show interest and approval and provide encouragement. If your child begins to behave in a manner that is unacceptable, it is important to let him know what he is doing wrong and to teach him what he can do differently next time.
2. Make sure that the toys or materials are age appropriate. This is often taken care of by the child’s interest.
3. Learn to ask open-ended questions while you play, such as:
What do you think will happen if _____________________?
Can you think of another way to ______________________?
What else can you build with those blocks?
Where else could that puzzle piece go?
4. Encourage further exploration.
If your child seems to be getting frustrated, you can make suggestions for another way to look at the problem. For example, to the child who is upset because his tower keeps falling over, you can show him how to use bigger blocks at the bottom.
5. Model good sportsmanship.
When children get old enough to begin playing competitive games such as races or board games, you can model good sportsmanship.
Be a good loser by expressing how much fun you had participating in the activity and by congratulating the winner. Equally as important is to be a good winner by not gloating or being too competitive with young children.
6. If you and your child are not enjoying the activity, stop it. Play should be something that is enjoyable for everyone involved.