The Importance of Play
By Sidney Hammer, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist
Play is the building block for many life skills including problem solving, imagination, body awareness, ability to change and adapt, understanding emotions, exploring interests, fine motor, gross motor, creativity, and social interactions and negotiations. Play is considered any interactive activity where the child is having fun, being creative, using their own ideas and acting them out.
Play begins during infancy. It is never too early to interact and encourage a child to learn about themselves or their environment through sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing. Interaction and play teach children to pay attention to others and interact with those people for a common reason. Interactive play with an infant includes activities such as playing ball, hide and seek, and peek-a-boo.
There are two different types of play – structured activities and unstructured activities. Structured play involves the child following directions with guidance of an adult. Unstructured play is when the child can do what is interesting to them, such as, playground, dress-up, restaurant, school, cars on a track. Both types of play are essential for a child to develop interaction and play skills.
Children learn to explore different environments and toys and use them in a variety of ways to shape their vocabulary and movements. Below you will find a short list of play activities for different ages.
Birth to 1 year:
· Talk and read to baby
· Touch baby’s hands, belly toes and say “beep”
· Use colorful toys and rattles – baby will follow with eyes then try to reach for and grasp the toy
· Peek- a- boo
· Sing songs
· Copy the sounds the baby makes
· Show baby their own face in the mirror
· Play ball – roll the ball, hand the ball to the baby, drop the ball
· Stack blocks then knock them over
· Dance to music
· Describe and narrate daily routines such as eating, bathing, changing diaper, walking, sitting
· Singing songs with motions (Head shoulders knees and toes, Baby Shark, Itsy bitsy spider)
· Make and play with instruments – drum (a box with a spoon), horn (paper towel roll)
· Blow and pop bubbles while saying pop, pop, pop
· Scoop and dump water, cheerios, sand
· Pretend a cardboard box- Pretend it is a car, ship, rocket
· Simple board games
· Pretend play with a restaurant, a school, a house, a farm, race cars
· Visit a playground
· Walk a trail and talk about all the different things in sight
· Build with blocks
Children love to play! Research shows that they learn best while playing.
Check out our last blog: Signs of Autism