Child's play: Easy ways to have more fun
It can take time to learn how to really play with your child. Gurgle comes to the rescue with brilliant ideas for mums who want to have more fun
A teddy bear’s picnic, making mud pies or racing cars along the floor – nothing is as much fun as playtime. But is there a point to all the fun and games, or is it just passing the time by making a mess? Actually there’s much more to play than meets the eye: experts say simple games plant the seeds of our children’s lifelong learning journey. Turns out it’s vital stuff. For Early Years consultant Thirza Ashelford, play is as crucial as it gets:
‘Play is your child’s work. It’s how they learn to communicate, concentrate, share, problem solve, work both independently and co-operatively, lead, follow instructions and rules and ask for help when they need it. They learn simple maths and science concepts and develop motor skills.’
Child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer has just launched my2frontteeth.co.uk, that aims to help parents understand more about the toys they choose for their kids. ‘Incorporate play into your day — even putting the laundry away can be a game. Bring in counting, describe shapes rather than simply saying, “That’s good,” talk about what they’ve done in more detail; say things like, “It was great when you put the red block on the blue block”.’
Getting their hands dirty has big benefits for any child, but if you can’t deal with mess all the time, think about getting something like an Aquadraw or a Megasketcher. It doesn’t have to be finger paints all over the walls.
It doesn’t always have to mean chaos, either. Cathy James is a child minder for under fours who also runs nurturestore.co.uk, a play ideas blog. ‘You can offer your child something messy, such as some jelly, water or spaghetti,’ she suggests, or simple objects from around the house like spoons and pans, and let them lead the way. If you’re worried about making a mess, then take the precaution of covering your child, yourself and the floor, then relax and have fun.’
What kind of play do small children like best?
Have you ever wondered why your child plays the way they do? Here are three of the most common things your tot is likely to get up to.
Small world play
Literally this means creating their own version of your world. So it could involve playing with dolls, toy cars or a play kitchen. It’s fascinating to join in small world play with a child because you get a glimpse of how they see things. When your child ‘mothers’ a doll, it reflects how she sees her relationship with you.
This is when a child plays alongside another rather than with them. It’s a normal stage for one- to two-year-olds, but parents can worry that their tot doesn’t seem to want to join in with other children. Don’t! He’s probably very happy being around others, just not ready to get stuck in with them yet. Construction play Building (and knocking down) is your child’s way of developing hand/eye co-ordination and enjoying being in control of where things go.
Sharing is a lifelong skill, which you can start to introduce at the toddler stage. ‘Try to see things from your child’s point of view and respect their wishes not to share,’ says Thirza. ‘There’s no reason to expect children to share their favourite toys with children you have invited into their home! Instead, have a box of toys specifically for this purpose – you can pick them up at car boot sales. They’ll soon learn sharing is ok, and that it’s fun to play with different, special toys. ‘When they do play co-operatively, or share a toy, make a point of telling them how well they’re sharing and how good that is. They’ll soon associate “share” with “good” and see that this makes you smile!
Written by Joanne Mallon.