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Making playtime educational

Have fun while learning

Playtime is vital to the mental, emotional and creative development of toddlers. It's when they exercise their imaginations, learn how to express themselves, and test and try new experiences. Capitalize on this time by making playtime educational.

girls playing together

Ask open-ended questions

Encourage creativity and imagination. Ask lots of open-ended questions whenever there is a pause in play. For example, if your child is building a tower out of blocks, ask who lives in the tower. Follow up your child's response with additional questions, like "Who is that person?" Or "What are they doing inside the tower?" The same practice can be applied to all sorts of play, like painting ("Tell me what's going on in this picture.") and even cars ("Where is this car going?"). Your child will use his creativity and imagination coming up with answers to your fun questions. Just make sure to wait for a pause in play before peppering him with questions, or else he might get distracted or frustrated.

Choose educational toys

When selecting new toys for the playroom, keep an eye on toys designed to be educational. Some are as simple as floor puzzles, which allow your child to work on problem-solving and fine-motor skills. Others are more elaborate, like digital devices. Regardless, focus on purchasing toys that contribute an educational value to playtime.

Allow self-directed play

Allow your child to choose what and how to play. As adults, we might know that there is a "right" way to stack blocks into a tower. However, your child may want to try different methods or explore other opportunities with her toys. Try not to step in and correct or help in any way. Your little one needs time to direct her own play so that she is challenged to think things through on her own. If a project or an idea isn't working, this self-directed time allows your child to problem solve and get creative. By not stepping in, you give your kid the freedom to test her own ideas.

Invite friends over

Playing with others is a surefire way to make playtime more educational. Kids can learn new skills by watching their peers. Plus, by playing together, kids are learning how to get along, how to work as a team and how to share — all very valuable skills. Also, since your child's friends probably all have different toys, it's a great way for them to experience diversity in play.

Watch: How to entertain your toddler

Read more about preschoolers

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