Play is at the centre of every child’s experiences. As children play, they learn about the world around them and deepen their understanding of the rules and roles within society. It allows them to deepen their relationships with others and builds on their sense of self. Recognising this, many early childhood curriculums around the world place a focus on play, suggesting that educators and teachers use intentional teaching to help children develop and learn through every play experience.
Even when they haven’t yet developed the physical mobility to actively explore their environment, babies are still using play to learn about the world around them. Here, we examine the importance of play for babies and how as caregivers we can support babies as they play and deepen their connection with their world.
Why is play so essential for babies?
Playing leads to the formation of new pathways in babies’ brains and allows for social, cognitive, emotional and physical development.
Some of the developmental skills babies inculcate through the means of play include:
Individual hand coordination
There are a lot of activities or games that entail using both the hands for different purposes. This ensures that they learn how to use both the hands efficiently and in coordination with each other.
Activities like rolling, climbing, crawling and so on help the babies in developing sensory and motor skills. Trying to turn their heads when you call out to them, shaking a toy that makes a noise or rattles are all movements and activities aid in the development of body awareness and balance.
Concept of size and space
When the baby plays with blocks or toys or different sizes, they build on their knowledge of space and size. They start to understand that certain objects are bigger than the others and how you can balance smaller shapes on top of bigger ones etc.
Babies are born with their hands fisted and the thumbs gently tucked inside. Slowly as the months pass by, their hands start to open up and they even start using their fingers to point or use certain gestures. Hence it is good to keep giving them smaller, lighter objects to hold, and engage them in other similar activities so they start developing proper wrist control. Although it takes time to develop wrist control, they can always start with small steps at a younger age.
Interpreting and learning a language
Babies love interacting, and it is imperative to constantly keep communicating with them. Whether it is through the means of talking to them, rhymes, songs, visual elements etc. Songs or chants work exceedingly well since it engages them more. Parents can also try rhymes or poems that involve body movement, this makes babies or toddlers very happy and involved.
The environment as a third teacher
For babies, anything and everything around them is perceived as a play tool. So their environment ends up becoming a prominent play space. Walking, crawling, tumbling on the floor, sitting down, rolling around and so on all help in making their bodies stronger and more developed.
How do babies really play?
Communication is essential, and it is one of the ways in which babies play and entertain themselves. Playing for them is not just about toys but having constant interaction. Showing them different objects and images, singing to them, swaying them while music is playing, doing various gestures and so on.
Some other types of play objects and methods that parents can incorporate are:
(These could be coloured pasta, noodles, cornflakes etc.)
- Painting with organic food substances
(Such as yoghurt, mayonnaise)
- Coloured paper or cellophane
- Water balloons or flexible, shape-changing toys or balls
- Toys or books that have various textures
(These grasp their attention faster)
- Any squeaky or noisy toys
(Music is considered to be very beneficial for children. They enjoy and respond to it very well. Listening to different kinds of sounds soothes them and nurtures their brain)
For expecting parents or the ones parenting babies and toddlers, these tips would prove as a great resource. At Aurora, we believe in caring for children and connecting with them. Together we hope to create a better, more loving world for our children.