As a parent, you are your child's first and best playmate! Joining your child as they play is actually good for both of you. Children tend to be more creative when their parents get involved in their play -- and that play time is valuable time to spend together.
Play is important to the healthy growth and development of kids. Through play, they develop motor skills as they handle small toys and learn to run, climb and balance. Play can teach colors, numbers, sizes and shapes. It can also enhance their memory skills and expand attention spans.
As they interact with others during play -- telling stories or taking turns -- kids learn to cooperate with others and start developing their social skills. And it's fun!
Be aware of your child's favorite activities. When you take part in the play, you're showing your interest in what interests them. You can join in and even add to the complexity of the play, but let your child be the one who determines the direction of the play.
Not all children enjoy the same kinds of play, but knowing your child's interests and abilities will help you choose appropriate toys to provide them with hours of pleasure.
Toddlers generally love moving around a lot and manipulating objects. Push/pull toys, peg boards, shape sorters, blocks and stacking rings are excellent toy choices for them. Preschoolers are learning to love sharing their playtime -- with mom, and with other children. Simple board games, dress-up items, storybooks, and age-appropriate puzzles are good basics for them.
School age kids need toys that challenge their play. They are also beginning to socialize and are influenced by their peers. Sports equipment, model and craft kits, and building and construction sets are toys they can use with their friends.
Don't get locked into the adult notion that there's only one way to play with a toy. Being creative makes play more fun for kids -- and parents, too! Give your child a big box and see what their imagination transforms it into: a car, a castle, a fort, a robot, or maybe it's a mountain!
A sheet draped over a table becomes a tent or a cave -- and later might end up as the latest bridal fashion in a dress-up session. Providing simple props for your child to play with helps their imagination soar and makes playtime creative and exciting.
Games don't always have to be played by the rules, either. Play is a time when the child can really be in charge of the direction the game takes. Letting them take the lead and following along will make playtime more fun for them and you.
Encourage your child's imagination and interests by joining in the play to give praise and positive reactions.
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