Allyson Candee, M.A.
Early Learning Services
Minnesota Department of Education
Did you know your child's brain is hard at work during playtime? Important brain connections are forming during simple play. You can easily maximize your child's development by providing safe, stimulating activities and environments.
It is a common misperception that children need battery-operated toys and expensive gadgets. Your child grows by exploring, manipulating, imagining and exercising in different environments.
Growing through Play: Great Play Activities and Environments
- " Get outside. Visit parks, playgrounds and gardens. Allow your child to safely climb, run and balance. This will not only develop large motor skills but also give your child self-confidence in her abilities. Let your child explore and ask questions.
- " Dramatic Play. Play areas allow a child to pretend while developing imagination and inspiring creativity. Dressing up in play clothes, playing with dolls, and mimicking adult responsibilities are great ways for your child to pretend. Language is also being developed as your child talks and interacts with you, friends, or even alone.
- " Building Areas. Large and small building blocks use your child's creativity to imagine, create and tear down. These activities can be great places for your child to learn how to cooperate with other children and gain a sense of accomplishment in their creations.
- " Books and Other Literacy Materials. Books can promote many different types of development. Reading to your child is a very positive way to introduce many different skills, but books can also be used in other ways. Your child can look at the picture and create her own stories. Storytelling, both real and imaginative, is a great way to increase language skills and stir creativity.
- " Science materials. You can introduce early scientific concepts such as magnets, magnifying glasses, plants and toy animals to you child. Allow your child to manipulate and ask questions.
- " Small manipulative toys. Small blocks and interlocking pieces are great for quiet time activities. Your child can build, create patterns and make-believe.
- " Arts. Your child can express herself using different art mediums. The final "product" is not nearly as important as the process. She can manipulate clay, gain motor skills with a paintbrush, and sense paint on her fingers as she creates. Crayons, markers, different paints, and clay can be used in different ways for your child to develop many skills. Making music and dancing other ways in which your child can express herself.
- " Physical Time. Both outdoors and inside, your child is eager to exercise and move her body. Dancing is a fun way to develop coordination and rhythm. Different sized balls, tricycles and jump ropes are great toys that develop motor skills and encourage social skill building. Simple games, like Hide and Seek or Duck, Duck, Goose are great for your child. She is learning many social skills (i.e., taking turns) and is also exercising.
Your child will play differently during different developmental times of her life. There are times when independent play is more important than playing with adults or peers. Generally speaking, young preschool children tend to play alone or in adult-directed activities. As they grow, they start incorporating others into their play. Eventually, she will move into more sophisticated, social play settings with her peers. Playing alone, with adults, and peers are all important for children. It is best to provide many different environments for your child.