Carl Jung, George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson... they all have something in common: they have all been quoted on their understanding of the importance of play. Adding to this list of esteemed people, Dr Maria Montessori said that “play is the work of the child,” while Plato is quoted as saying: “Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion, but by play.”
Play is crucial to a child’s development. It is their way of acquiring new skills, experimenting with principles of physics, science and maths, engaging with other people and exploring the world around them, and their role in it. As parents, it is our task to encourage free play and to create a safe and stimulating environment in which our children can develop to their full potential.
TIPS FOR ENCOURAGING YOUR TODDLER TO LEARN THROUGH PLAY
Let your child lead
Present age appropriate toys and activities to your child, but allow them to take the lead in discovering how it works and how they wants to use it.
Follow their pace
Try and not let your desire to help overshadow your child’s need to learn through trial and error. Practice patience and show support at their attempts to master the challenge before them.
Read the signs
Toddlers may not be adept at speaking yet or being able to express their needs or frustrations. Learn to gauge when your child is becoming overwhelmed or when a tantrum is looming because their game is not going as intended or they can’t master their challenge without assistance.
By preparing a play area that is free from danger, is equipped with age appropriate toys and equipment, and provides enough stimulation, toddlers (and parents) can reap the rewards of both structured and free play.
We want more!
As tired as you may be of that one game your toddler likes to play over and over, if you want what is best for their development, you may just need to grin and bear it! Repetition is vital in order for a child to master skills, reach an understanding of cause and effect, and get a grip on how things work.
WHAT CAN MY TODDLER DO?
Between the ages of 12 and 24 months, toddlers would have learnt to walk independently, begin to run, kick a ball, bend over to pick things up and then get up again, and pull or carry toys while they are walking.
By this age, a toddler may begin to balance for a second or two on one foot, is able to climb and run well. They can now bend over easily without falling, and can kick a ball forward or throw it overhead. They will also begin to learn how to pedal a tricycle.
WHAT DOES MY TODDLER LIKE TO PLAY?
12 – 18 months:
Wheeled toys: Whether it is pulling a train along the floor or turning the wheels of a toy car, at this age wheels are fascinating, and also an extra stepping stone to growing independence: by learning to use a push bike your toddler has a new way of getting himself from one point to another.
Musical instruments: Tiny maestros tend to make their debut in the kitchen pot cupboard testing their musical skills with pans, spoons and other utensils. They also enjoy toy drums, shakers and generally anything that can be banged to produce sound.
18 – 24 months:
Craft: Crayons, paints and playdough spark the creative flairs of budding artists. Toddlers are beginning to hone their fine motor skills and these are enhanced by gripping crayons and brushes and working dough through their fingers.
Role playing games: There have been little eyes following you for the last year and a half and now, with growing abilities, toddlers start making sense of their world by mimicking the people around them. Seeing a tiny tot holding a plastic telephone receiver to their ear while muttering to themselves is a typical example of this.
2 – 3 years:
Simple puzzles: Being able to piece together a simple jigsaw provides a sense of accomplishment and fosters the belief that they are capable human beings willing to keep learning and growing.
Sports games: Your toddler is using physical activity to gain muscle control and improve coordination and balance. They are also starting to interact more with other children so playing ball with another child encourages social interaction, teamwork and cooperation while building on their gross motor skills.
TODDLER AREAS AT BUGZ PLAYPARK
Bugz Playpark has several play areas that are ideal for piquing toddler imaginations, getting growing bodies stretching, twisting and strengthening, and developing the senses and motor skills.
- Sandpits provide an excellent sensory exploration for toddlers, and also develops gross- and fine motor skills, language, science and maths skills.
- Jungle gyms ensure endless hours of fun crawling over, under and through bars and ropes, all while strengthening little bodies and developing their gross motor skills.
- Indoor and outdoor playhouses encourage children to engage in fantasy and role play which builds social and emotional esteem, improves language and cognitive abilities and enhances communication.
- Dragon swings are one of the first things kids see when they enter the park and are a firm favourite with toddlers.
- Toddler swings and treehouse areas.
- Soft play indoor section – Children can build their own play area in this zone that is great for making friends.
- Mud kitchens are very popular with toddlers and the benefits of messy play abound with developmental opportunities.
- Petting farm – Children learn compassion when interacting with domestic animals such as goats, sheep, pigs, bunnies, and chickens in a safe and controlled environment with knowledgeable staff.
- Splash zone – Open on Friday afternoons and weekends during the summer months.
- Toddler tractors – Toddlers love this and if they are just a bit too young mom or dad can push them around.
How Much Play Is Enough?
For toddlers aged 12-36 months, the National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NASPE), USA, recommends a minimum of half an hour of structured, adult-led activity, and a minimum of one hour of unstructured free play. As a guideline, toddlers should not go more than one hour at a time without any physical activity.
In closing, one last bit of wisdom by Fred Rogers (aka Mr Rogers), the host of an American TV children’s series: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”