The Science of Play
Watching a baby play or being a baby’s playmate is pure delight. Their cute mannerisms and innocent questions warm the heart. According to UNICEF, on the surface, play may seem like it’s all about having fun, but it’s far more than that for babies and toddlers. It’s about learning and building important life skills – from problem-solving to expressing ideas – and strengthening the bond with the people around.
- Physical Skills
An important skill set to nurture a healthy and active body in a baby. As a parent or a caretaker, you can place toys nearby so your baby can move and reach for them when they are an infant. As they grow, play games and sing songs with movements that your child can imitate. Encourage toddlers to build a tower of four or more blocks, play throwball and indulge in art and craft projects using playdough, scissors and small beads on a string as they grow older.
2. Social Skills
Humans are social animals and these skills are immensely important. Encourage your kid to follow their interests, be it favourite sport or playing an instrument, and meet other kids who have similar interests. Never discourage your child from asking questions, practice role-playing (especially persons they have difficulty talking to or getting along with) to help them understand and learn empathy but also know your child’s limits to socialisation.
3. Cognitive Skills
Babies need to learn to tackle complex tasks and build effective strategies to overcome obstacles. Don’t go long periods without talking to them, holding them or making eye contact, read stories with your baby, recite nursery rhymes or sing songs, make funny faces, get them books or baby play gyms, listen to wind chimes, birds or different types of music and most importantly, explore outside with your baby (with necessary safety precautions).
4. Emotional Skills
Understanding, managing and expressing emotions by building self-awareness and handling impulses is vital to your child’s emotional development and lifelong well-being. Show your affection for children with hugs, cuddles and kisses. Express your feelings and let them know when you are happy or sad. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and always have introspective conversations about what they feel.
5. Creative Skills
Kids are naturally inventive with powerful imaginations. Creativity also helps kids be more confident, develop social skills and learn better. Carve out a space where your child can be creative, get open-ended toys like LEGO and give them free time to play. Take them to libraries, museums, cultural and historical monuments, wildlife sanctuaries or theme parks. Cultivate critical thinking and facilitate their creativity without managing it.
At the end of the day, be yourself and the best possible parent-figure you can be for your child. Kids often learn a lot by imitating you, some consciously and some subconsciously. And when it comes to playing, the important thing for you and your kid is, and will always be, to enjoy yourselves and be happy!