Sometimes we might wistfully say, “How great it is to be a child with no responsibilities and just play all day.” However, play is serious work for children. When they interact with others in play, their brains are constantly absorbing information at the speed of light. Play is a tool children use to learn how the world around them works. It is, in fact, a big responsibility for them. Here are some tips and ideas to encourage rich, learning interactions while playing with your child:
- Unstructured Strategy
Play can be an excellent time to introduce new vocabulary and early literacy skills. However, be aware that children are already busy observing and absorbing information. You don’t need to make learning the only goal of play. Encourage learning and foster your child’s curiosity. For example, when playing doctor you can introduce the word stethoscope and pretend to listen to a heartbeat. Maybe your child wants to pretend to be a kitten instead. If so, you can adapt and allow your child to change the direction of play. I recommend Yolo County Library Storytime kits like this one, with books, toys, and puppets for your child to play with after reading a good story.
- Sticks and Stones
As a child I owned several dolls and accessories – including a two-story dollhouse. I would, however, often abandon them to build tiny houses out of mud and sticks surrounded by a corral made of rocks piled up like the one around the corner in my neighborhood. Other times, I pretended to be a chef and “cooked” flowers and leaves that I cut from my grandmother’s garden. If your little one is more interested in your pots and pans than the newest trendy toy, your experience is not unique. Children learn best through play when we strengthen our connection with them and let go of the reins to safely explore their world openly. To start, I leave you with this book titled “Not A Box” written by Antoinette Portis for you and your child to play and explore with an object as simple as a cardboard box.
- Adaptable and Fun
Finally, remember that play is just a door that opens to an infinite world of development and learning. How you decorate that door depends on your child’s needs, abilities, and senses. Therefore, play can be adapted in a myriad of ways and no one way is the only way to open that door. In short, play with us! I invite you and your little one to join us for a virtual or in-person storytime. Click here for a list of free Yolo County Library events.