I can’t overemphasise the importance of play. A parent is a child’s first playmate and first teacher. From birth, children learn through play and the close interaction they have with those around them. For a baby play is work. Playtime is vital for developing really important physical, intellectual, manual, language and social skills. In fact, when a baby plays, it grows half a million brain connections every second.
Toys provide lots of opportunities for parents to interact and develop skills in their children.
I am a firm believer in the power of traditional toys to encourage child development. Each toy provides lots of opportunities for parents to interact and develop skills in their children. Here are a few ideas to encourage those skills and aid development.
A Shape Sorter, for example, teaches about the features of squares, triangles, circles and crosses, while having to manipulate a shape precisely to fit into its hole also develops manual dexterity. Whenever you’re playing with your baby, keep up a running commentary on what you’re doing: “Look, there are holes with different shapes here. Shall we see if we can fit a block into one? That square one has four sides and doesn’t fit in the round hole.”
This will teach language and memory, while placing the shape accurately into the hole will also develop good hand eye coordination.
A puzzle also does this, with the aim to teach your baby to pick up each piece holding the peg between their thumb and forefinger while you guide them to find right space. A Farmyard Puzzle also gives you the opportunity to teach all about the animals, the noises they make and what they look like, teaching memory and conceptual thinking.
Bath Time Learning
Even bath time is perfect for play. Don’t forget to talk to them about what you are doing.
For example, if you’re playing with the Baby Bath Set you can say: “Let’s play with the frog. The frog is green. He hops about. Look, let’s make him hop. What a big splash in the water. A frog goes RIBBIT! RIBBIT!”
The three animals on a floating lily pad are great for water games. You can fill them with water and squirt it out of their mouths. This will teach your child conceptual thinking – what makes a fish a fish, or a frog a frog. It also helps develop memory and teaches the names of the animals. As your child holds the toys to splash in the water they are learning manual dexterity and hand eye coordination, all while having a great time splashing away in the tub.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Something as simple as a mirror can encourage many skills in your child. The Galt Toys Smiley Sun Mirror will bring you both a lot of fun. Whenever you’re playing with your baby, keep talking to them: “Let’s look in the mirror together. There’s mummy and there’s you. Give me a big smile!”
The mirror teaches conceptual thinking as your baby learns about reflections, as well as their concept of self – I, me and mine. Talking about the sunshine and rain coming together to create a rainbow also develops memory, while naming the colours of the rainbow teaches about colours, but also that everything has a name.
As your baby grows up through toddlerhood, preschool to school age the time you spend together becomes more precious and rewarding for both of you. Especially if you espouse the roles of playmate and teacher with an eye to teachable moments – any situation where there are interesting tidbits to pass on.
Every game you play, every activity you do together, every time you are a spectator of their skills, aptitudes and talents gives an opportunity for encouragement, constructive comment, praise, and thereby close bonding.
Something as simple as building a tower together using wooden bricks, for example, which in itself develops fine manual dexterity skills, can become a history lesson. Telling your child about the Tower of London and castles will teach them about the past while encouraging them to use their imagination. You can also teach simple maths by counting the building bricks as they are stacked up high.
Dr Miriam Stoppard has developed a range of 21 developmental toys for baby’s first year and beyond. The Dr Miriam @Galt range, available from Galt Toys, encourages learning through play, with each toy boasting a host of engaging features for little hands and minds to explore. www.galttoys.com