Written by Madeline Mitchell, Owner of Hi iQ Tutoring
There is nothing more magical and rewarding than the sound of children laughing, babbling and exploring language and behaviours through play. Simple reactions to cause and effect, huge grins from funny faces, hide and seek, dressing up, stacking Duplo AND who could forget the joy of wrapping paper at birthdays!
This may sound like a typical day in your household and guess what the best news is: This is how your toddler is learning – through play!
Playing is the best way for your child to learn and develop his/her fine and gross motor skills, social skills, develop conceptual understandings and enhance language skills.
Fine and gross motor skills are so important for daily functioning both at home and at school. As your toddler grows, he/she will need to develop the skills necessary to use cutlery, tie shoe laces and buttons, hold a pencil, throw a ball, carry a school bag etc. Believe it or not, these skills are developing with every single movement!
Toys such as puzzles, ball games, stacking blocks, Lego/Duplo, threading beads, sorting shapes, using pegs, spraying water from a bottle, rolling objects, push and pull toys and tricycles are all fantastic toys for developing fine and gross motor skills.
Play is a vital part of brain development and conceptual understanding. Toddlers are learning to interact with the environment and the world around them. This builds on their understanding of animals and sounds, nature and surroundings, people and places. Picnics, trips to the park and beach, visiting friends, shops, cafes and being out and about are all excellent ways of exposing your toddler to different locations and stimulations.
Your toddler is learning by observing and playing with you and other children. Singing songs, reading books, sharing nursery rhymes and pointing and naming objects are all ways that your toddler is developing oral language skills and comprehension. Talk to your toddler as much as possible and try to use the correct name for things. Your toddler is absorbing everything like a sponge!
Not only is play fun and a great way for you and your toddler to bond, playing and engaging with other children and adults is also a way for your toddler to develop social skills. Your toddler is building resilience, concentration, optimism and creativity through playing.
Toddlers have an innate interest in other kids and their toys! We’ve all been at the park or shops and witnessed the strong-willed persistence of a toddler, desperate to grab another child’s toy and claim it as their own! Playing in the park and communal areas is an excellent opportunity for your toddler to learn how to share and tolerate others. Children communicate with each other from babies and are interested in other children the same age and older. Providing opportunities for your child to interact with other kids is an excellent opportunity to nurture their social growth and development.
Play along with your toddler in many fun and creative ways as possible. Observe their strengths, challenges and encourage tasks that may seem difficult. Laugh with your toddler and let them know how much fun you are having together!
Playing with different textures is also very important! Sitting on the grass, running hands and toes through sand, squishing Play-Doh and clay, finger paints, fluffy carpets and rugs and water stations are all excellent stimulants for a toddler. This type of play certainly can be messy, however, these types of sensory games should be experienced by all toddlers.
Remember that every experience is a valuable learning opportunity for you and your toddler! You don’t need the latest toys or extravagant holidays; you just need laughter, love, creativity and a little bit of imagination!
Have fun playing and learning with your toddler!