Play is your toddler’s work. Through play, your toddler works at learning critical lessons about life, himself and others. While he plays, he beds down the foundations for all skills in life. Let’s look at 7 Secret Powers your toddler gains through play:
#1 Emotional regulation
Play does not always go according to plan – a toy may be taken away, we may have to share and we may have to wait our turn. These little frustrations teach toddlers to self regulate their emotions – this means staying calm and delaying gratification. Research has shown that the ability to self regulate one’s emotions is one of the biggest predictors of success.
#2 Social interaction
Between 2 and 3 years old, the toddler shifts from playing alongside a playmate to playing with a friend. As this happens, he starts to learn to read the mind and emotions of the other. This is the foundation for social interactions and empathy.
#3 Body awareness
Sensory play such a sandpit or water play is a wonderful experience for learning about one’s body. As the toddler slides down the slide or crawls through an obstacle course, he learns about his body in space too.
#4 Preschool Concepts
Playing with blocks, puzzles and colourful toys teaches essential concepts for school, such as number, shape and colour concept. Make sure your little one has access to toys that he can experiment with as he learns.
#5 Motor skills
Gross motor and movement play is essential for developing muscle tone and coordination. In turn, gross motor skills are the foundation for fine motor skills, which your little one needs for writing one day. Rather than giving a toddler fine motor activities that he may not be ready for (like cutting and drawing), you can do loads of outdoor gross motor activities – play at the park or take a swim together. These play activities are very beneficial for all motor skills.
Imaginary play and books are the best ways to encourage a toddler’s language skills through play. Read to your toddler daily. Have a box of dress up toys that let him enter a new reality. When taking on a new role or pretending to be somewhere else, your toddler expands his verbal skills.
Free play without a plan and without structure breeds creativity. The less fancy a toy, the more that can be done with it. Give your little one a box and see what he does with it – it can be a castle or a car. Give your little one paint and blank paper or blocks to build with. All these wonderful play activities encourage the creative mind.
In case the message is not clear – do free play, play with your child, have loads of gross motor play and sensory experiences. Play is the fertiliser for your toddler’s mind.
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