Here are some of the things your child is experiencing and learning, along with ideas on how you can help boost the benefits of his play.
WORDS JUNE YONG
Every child loves to play. It’s the way they discover new things about the world. It’s also a social activity, and young children learn about themselves and others through play. But how can you help your child get the best out of playtime?
Tips for Mum and Dad
1. Create a conducive environment for play
Think about how best to organise your child’s play area such that they can see their toys and choose what they want to play.
Pick a time during the day when you are free from other
distractionsand can relax and play.
Apart from spending time to bond with your child through play,
you can also give your child space to daydream,
and explore their inner worlds.
Dr Cecilia Chu, a clinical psychologist at Raffles Counselling Centre also recommends incorporating play into daily rituals such as bath and meal-times, such as identifying shapes or playing with soap bubbles.
2. Let the child take the lead
Anita Leo, a paediatric occupational therapist in private practice advises, “If you control everything, it’s no longer play. You can bring them to the playground for example, but allow them to choose what they want to play. If you instruct them, then it’s no longer play. Also try not to force them to play something, especially young children. Show them that it is safe by having a go at it yourself. Then ask them ‘Would you like to try?’”
3. Variety is key
“A variety of forms of play in a child’s life is important for overall health and development of a child. So it is important to provide opportunities for the child to play outdoors and indoors, individually and in groups, in a variety of different activities, such as structured play (e.g. puzzles, games with rules and sports for older children), pretend play (e.g. with dolls, cars and other equipment), and free play but supervised unobtrusively by an adult (e.g. self-chosen activities like exploring plants and trees, drawing, or peering into the kitchen cupboards),” recommends Dr Chu.
4. Resist the desire to teach
Dr Chu adds, “Try to avoid “teaching” or directing how children should play – that makes you less fun as a playmate, and you will also miss out on learning about what your child likes or is good at.”
5. Don’t interrupt their creative process
Between the ages of two and four, children engage primarily in parallel play, where they can play alongside others but are not yet ready to play directly with other people.
During this stage, it is important that you don’t intrude
into their play without them asking for help, as they will see you as exactly that
– an intruder. However, you may join in their play,
by offering suggestions or a missing piece of the puzzle, for instance.
6. Limit the use of gadgets
Dr Chu adds, “Gadgets with apps for children such as tablet computers and smartphones can be useful tools for children to learn, especially if the apps are interactive (that is, it requires responses from the child rather than passive watching). However, as with all toys and play activities, variety in play is the key to healthy development. So parents should be careful not to use gadgets as babysitting tools and leave their children for many hours in front of a screen – these may result in poor eyesight, disrupted attention spans, and poor bonding and interaction skills with adults and other children over the long term.”