Teaching your child to play
There is simply no better way for your baby to learn about the world he inhabits and to develop strong motor skills than through play. And as his parent, your approach to his learning through play will have an enormous impact on his early development.
It's essential that your baby be given limitless opportunities to learn to play in a variety of settings so that he can practice the skills that will allow him to conquer the world later.
- You are the best 'toy' for your baby - it is through you that he can explore and make discoveries about the world, and learn in a safe and secure environment.
- Make sure that you set aside time every day to play with your baby - he depends on you to bring the world to him through play.
- Be a good role model - get involved in physical activities and outdoor pursuits that you can enjoy with your baby.
- Your baby loves to connect with faces (particularly yours), and see strong contrasting patterns and colours best - so avoid tasteful pastel shades when choosing age-appropriate toys for your baby.
- There are no rules about interaction with your baby - it's hard to do the 'wrong' thing if you are consistently spending time talking and holding your baby. He will love to spend his time with you and you are the best judge of how to spend that time together.
- Try introducing your baby to different places - go to the park, the beach, or playgroup. He will be stimulated by the variety of environments he experiences.
- Your baby will enjoy music and singing. By exposing him to these, you'll be giving him opportunities to develop his listening skills and his co-ordination. By holding him while you dance and sing together, he'll learn good patterns of movement and a physical way of expressing himself.
- Don't let your baby spend too much time in baby seats and carriers as they will restrict his movement and force him to be more passive in his interaction with his environment.
- Limit the use of walkers, indoor swings and baby bouncers - even with children who love them. While these accessories are fun, they shouldn't be viewed as a type of convenient babysitter for your baby - he needs to be touched, held and talked to when he plays.
- Children under the age of 2 years don't need screen time (TV, computer etc) - again, this can become a convenient babysitter that does little to enrich your baby's playtime experience.
- Always make sure that the toys you have are suitable for the age of your baby - no small pieces, or pointy corners. Avoid using balloons as a toy for children under 3 years, as they can pose a choking risk if they pop and are swallowed.
- Even toys that have an age-appropriate label on the packaging should be checked for loose parts and damage - you know best what is and isn't safe for your baby.
- Young children and babies always need to be supervised - it's very easy for your baby to get 'stuck' (he's rolled into a corner and can't roll away, or he's dropped a toy on his face and can't swipe it away). Playtime is for interaction, so don't look at it as time-out for yourself.
- Check all play areas - indoor and outdoor - for potential hazards before letting your baby loose!
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This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot. Sources include Vic Govt's Go For Your Life.
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