Play gives us the chance to learn and develop new skills in a fun way. We start learning at birth and carry on as we grow. The time children spend in their early years playing and learning, builds strong foundations for life.
Play is important for children’s physical and emotional development. Play helps them begin to understand the world. There are many ways to play, and it is best to try and give children lots of different experiences.
Rough and tumble, out and about physical play helps children learn what their body can do. This includes learning to roll, walk, climb and being able to hop, skip and jump.
Physical play is important. You can develop your muscles and body strength. You can learn how far you can go without getting hurt or being hurt. You have to learn to decide what is risky and what is safe.
When you play physically with your child running and jumping or teaching them to use a bike, ride on or scooter, your child is learning these important skills.
By the time children are toddling they are beginning to enjoy pretend play. It is their way of making sense of what they see happening around them. They love to copy pretending to brush their hair or talking on the phone. As they grow their pretending will get more and more detailed. Join in with them you might be a patient whilst your child is a doctor, or be searching for dinosaurs at the bottom of the garden.
Children use pretend play to ‘try out’ different situations and feelings in a safe way. Having a good imagination is a great skill, it will help your child keep their play exciting and fun.
Messy or sensory play helps children discover all of their senses including sight, sounds, smells, taste and, touch.
Messy play can be hard for some parents who find the messy bit off putting. Prepare ahead - you could try;
Messy play helps children learn physical skills like scooping, pouring, grabbing and squeezing. There is lots to talk about during messy play. Ask;
Messy play can help build confidence in trying new experiences. It can help children who find trying new foods stressful – because it is fun and takes the pressure off fussy eaters.
Building with bricks, making cars from boxes, sticking and gluing is a great way for children to play. You will be amazed at the ideas your child has.
It gives them the chance to see how things work, to cope with frustration when things don’t go as planned. They can learn skills like cutting, stacking or threading. They can try out ideas and feel proud of what they have created.
Games With Rules
We all have to follow rules. Rules keep us safe and allow us to get along with other people. Games with rules let children learn this in a fun way.
Games like snakes and ladders, Simon says or hide and seek, help children learn to listen carefully and follow rules. Children who understand rules find it easier to play with other children and make friends.
Sometimes it will be hard for children when they ‘lose’ a game. Having you play with them means you can comfort them and talk it through. It is hard to see your child disappointed but it is an important lesson and helps them learn to manage difficult feelings more easily.
Doing Things Over & Over Again
Small children like to do things over and over again. It is important for their brain development. It builds confidence and their sense of security. It is great fun when you join in too. These normal behaviours are sometimes called schemas.
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below.