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Child’s Developmental Play
Play for free without structure is the best kind of game for small children. This is creative play that just happens, depending on what interests your child at the time. Free play allows your child to use the movements at their own pace and use their imagination, it is not planned. Unstructured play could be: Exploring a new or favorite play space. Imaginary play – like, make cubby houses with boxes or blankets, dress up or play make-believe. Quality creative play alone or with others, including artistic or musical games. You may be part of your child’s unstructured play – or not. Sometimes all you will need to do is point them in the right direction – towards mixing in dress-ups and games on the floors, or on the table with crayons and paper. Sometimes you might need to be a bit more active. Suggest, ‘How about we play dress up? What would you like to be today?’.
Structured play is different. It is most often directed by an adult. It is more organized and occurs in a fixed space or at a fixed time. Examples of quality structured play may be some sports modified for slightly older children, such as cricket, basketball, netball. Or, dance, music or theater classes for children of all ages. Water familiarization classes for toddlers, or swimming lessons for older children – you might see these as important lessons for your child, but they might just think they’re fun. Storytelling group for toddlers and preschoolers at the local library. Family board or card game. As your child grows, the way they play will change – they will become more creative and experiment with toys, games and ideas. This may mean they need more space and time to play. Also, children move through different forms of play as they grow. This includes playing alone, playing together with other children and playing interactively with other children.
For babies, the best game is you. Just looking at your face and hearing your voice is a toy for your new baby, especially if you are smiling. You might like to try these game and activity ideas with your baby: Music, singing, gently patting your baby’s belly while you sing, bells or containers filled with different objects, these activities can help develop hearing and movement Solid furniture, balls, toys, or boxes can make your child crawl, stand, and walk. Objects of different sizes, colors and shapes can encourage your child to reach and grasp. Regular naps and tummy time are very important to your baby’s development. This helps your baby develop motor control by strengthening their head, neck and body muscles.
Here are some ideas your little one might enjoy: Boxes, hoops, boulders or pillows are good for climbing on, swinging, twisting, swinging or rolling. Hills, tunnels or corners can encourage physical activity such as crawling and exploring. Large and light objects such as cardboard boxes, buckets or bouncy balls, or couch cushions can encourage your child to run, build, push or drag. Chalk, rope, music or containers can encourage jumping, kicking, stomping, walking and running. If you play some favorite music while your toddler plays, they can also experiment with different sounds and rhythms. You might also enjoy singing, dancing and clapping to music with your child.
To find your preschooler mind and body go: Playdough and clay help your child develop fine motor skills. Simple puzzles and matching games like animal dominoes help improve your child’s memory and concentration. Old milk containers, wooden spoons, empty plant containers, sticks, scrunched-up paper, plastic buckets, cooking pots and old clothes are great for unstructured, imaginative play. Balls and frisbees can encourage kicking, throwing or rolling. When encouraging your child to kick or throw, try to get them to use one side of their body, then the other. Favorite music or pots and pans are great for a dance concert or making music.
School-aged children cand have fun with these objects and activities. Obstacle courses made at home can make your child move in different ways, directions and speeds. Simple cooking or food preparation such as measuring, stirring and serving food is great for developing math and everyday skills. Furniture, linens, laundry baskets, tents and boxes are great for building. Your child’s own imagination. With imagination, your child can become a favorite superhero or storybook character. Rhymes or puns like ‘I spy with my little eye, something that starts with…’ are great for word play and help develop literacy skills.
“Free play and exploration are, historically, the means by which children learn to solve their own problems, control their own lives, develop their own interests, and become competent in the pursuit of their own interests.” – Peter Gray, Research Professor, Department of Psychology, Boston College
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