The love and sense of duty that a parent feels for their child is immeasurable. From the moment your baby is born you would do anything to ensure his or her safety and comfort, and the adventure that you’re about to embark upon is likely to be your first, and last thought of the day.
While it’s certainly true that many aspects of parenting come naturally as soon as your infant is placed into your arms, the prospect of supporting your child’s development can be a daunting one; suddenly, nurturing your baby into adulthood with the knowledge and skills needed to survive becomes your sole responsibility, and it can be difficult to know which way to turn for the best.
How can new parents ensure their little one meets his or her developmental milestones, and is introduced to a wealth of experiences, concepts, and opportunities to build relationships, with the limited knowledge they have? Is there a tool to aid parents in such a matter?
There is, and it’s called play – every parent’s not-so-secret weapon in the cultivation of their child’s vital skills.
Importance of Play For Baby’s Development
There have been numerous studies advocating the importance of play during child development, each documenting the effects of toys, sing-alongs, group games, imaginative play, and storytelling based on the senses and emotions, communication and language, social skills, cognitive development, and physical development.
As your baby learns to follow a toy with his or her eyes, reach and grab for objects, crawl and walk in search of a favorite object, and speak to ask for a particular game, he or she is meeting milestones, ticking developmental boxes, and fast becoming the person that’s growing up in front of your eyes.
Play is integral to the exploration of senses, the creation and maintenance of relationships and friendships, the development of concentration and application to tasks, and the ability to expand ideas and apply logic, as well as nurturing in children a sense of confidence, self-worth, and independence. Play absorbs little ones, helping them to see an activity to fruition without fuss or encouragement. The element of fun that play introduces can help a child approach a developmental milestone without realizing it at all.
Play, when introduced and encouraged by a parental figure, has a host of benefits that aid development. These include, but are not limited to …
From the moment he or she is born, play should form an integral part of your baby’s routine, offering an insight into the senses that are beginning to develop; your baby will learn how to understand and interpret sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell via the games you play together, and with the aid of the toys you introduce from those earliest moments.
Take a crib mobile as an example, choosing from an exciting selection of crib mobiles is a great way to stimulate your baby’s senses and attract their attention as soon as they wake up, while baby gyms and activity mats, as well as sensory toys, teethers, and rattles, can introduce colors, textures, shapes, and noises that will encourage focus and attentiveness.
Even facial expressions, which can be accentuated during those early imitation games, and singsong chatters, are a tool for exploration. Play doesn’t have to involve expensive accessories to be successful, and fun.
It will come as little surprise that cognitive development, which concerns itself with the ways in which a baby perceives the world around it, the interpretation of information, the development of language and logic, memory, decision-making, and problem solving, can be assisted through play.
Indeed, the expansion of new ideas and your child’s ability to grasp new concepts are never more successful than they are when explored via toys, games, and imaginative play. Jigsaw puzzles, books, stacking toys, shape sorters, building blocks, mirrors, and memory games, as well as nursery rhymes and action songs all aid cognitive development.
Via play your child will learn how things work, gain confidence when it comes to applying logic, discover creativity and imagination, nurture memories, and explore the very concept of growing up.
Physical development is heavily supported by play as your baby learns to look out for toys, reach out and grab them, and roll over towards a favorite item. As your baby spends precious moments kicking on an activity mat, or indulging in tummy time, he or she is fortifying core muscles, learning to lift his or her head, and developing the strength needed to sit unaided, roll, crawl and, eventually, stand and walk.
In addition, toys can be fantastic incentives to get your baby moving, tempting a reluctant child to make that first grasping motion, or take a tentative step. Push and pull toys, ‘interactive’ toys that must be manipulated in order to create the desired affect, balls that could be rolled across the floor, and walking frames/aids will all help your child to gain his or her balance, increase strength, and improve co-ordination, all-important milestones during physical development.
Communication and social skills
Play isn’t just essential for your baby’s personal development, but also to the ways in which they perceive others and are, in turn, understood by their playmates. Play can help children to create and maintain friendships, understand complex emotions, and read certain situations, while imaginative play is vital for comprehension of the world. Through books, singing, action songs and rhymes, playing in groups, and indulging in role play and dress up your child will access a range of emotions and imagined situations, learn about sharing, communication, and co-operation, and come to grips with a variety of complex concepts.
Play enables children to better understand social situations and how others are feeling, while the simple act of sharing a toy can do wonders for a child’s ability to make friends later in life. From birth, be sure to sing to your little one, talk about the types of things you’re doing, and learn to label emotions. Understanding is bred through repetition and familiarity, which is ingrained by parents through play.
While the phrase ‘child’s play’ has come to be associated with a task that’s easy to complete, it’s clear that play is anything but a throwaway, senseless activity. Through play your child will face a host of new experiences, possibilities, emotions, and milestones without realizing it, fulfilling what’s expected of them at every stage with ease and, dare we say, a sense of excitement.
Whether your child is associating with emotions, forging friendships and relationships, gaining independence, learning to roll, crawl, or stand, solving puzzles, or learning to express him or herself, there’s a good chance that play has been behind numerous learning curves along the way. Support and encouragement are vital to your child’s development, but so too is play; ensure you’re there to join in the fun.