Play is the work of children. It is the way they explore and discover the world. To adults, it may look like they’re just goofing around, but play is essential to the healthy growth and development of children. During playtime, children gain important social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language skills that help them reach their full potential.
Play with your children
As parents, we are our children’s first playmates. When we play with our kids, we can encourage the natural learning opportunities that arise. Is your preschooler cooking you a pretend lunch? Chat with him or her about the names of the foods he or she is preparing. Trying sorting them by shape and color. Practice counting while you organize the food into baskets. Talk about healthy foods and wholesome meal planning. And, most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and be silly! Some of the most important learning comes from acting silly together. Children learn valuable social skills by watching your example and modeling after your behavior.
Move to the music
Love music? We’ve got good news. Listening to music with your child is a fun way to enhance brain development and boost learning, too! A new study by Northwestern University demonstrates that listening to music improves cognitive abilities such as learning, language, memory and neuroplasticity of the brain. Need some ideas on how to get musical with your little ones? Grab your musical instruments and march around the block singing your favorites songs. Listen to classical music and try to identify the instruments. Sing nursery rhymes and do finger-play together. Gather up the whole family and create your own musical band.
Even if your preschooler is not yet reading, you can still encourage a love of reading and help promote pre-reading skills with games. Stock your toy cabinet with magnetic and foam letters, alphabet cards, letter dice, alphabet beads and other manipulatives. These tools are perfect for designing entertaining learning games that your little one will love.
Select developmentally appropriate toys
Good toys make all the difference! Always make sure to select developmentally appropriate toys to offer the best opportunities for growth and learning. From infants to grade-schoolers, children of all ages have different needs and are engaging with toys in different ways. A learning store is one of the best places to find toys that are tailored to the individual needs and interests of your child.
Children learn best through action. Hands-on activities are the perfect way to engage your children in ways that will enhance brain development. Choose manipulatives like building blocks, Legos, lacing beads, wooden pattern blocks, stringing beads and pegboards to help develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, math fundamentals and creative thinking.
The great outdoors
One of the most exciting educational experiences is simply taking a nature walk in the great outdoors. The natural world has a never-ending supply of beauty and truth to discover. If you want to enhance your experience, try taking along a bag to collect natural treasures and identify them afterwards at home. Make a nature journal where you draw pictures of what you see. Bring along a bug catcher and see if you can collect a ladybug, beetle or roly-poly. Answer all your child’s questions and talk about your amazing discoveries together.