It’s the middle of winter.
The fun of the snow has worn off and it’s cold.
You find yourself looking for ways to keep your child busy.
The attached article, “Make the Most of Playtime” from www.vanderbilt.edu/csefel, is a great reminder of these important facts about playing with your child…
- A parent is a child’s first and favorite playmate
- Playing with your child in the first three years of life helps build your relationship with your child
- Playing together supports a child’s development and essential social skills
So when it’s too cold to be busy outside, get out the toys and play with your child!
Here are some tips to help playtime with your child be more enjoyable for both of you…
- Follow your child’s lead When your child plays, its okay if they are not using objects “the right way.” Let him or her show you the “new way.”
- Play it again, and again, and again… While playing games over and over again is often not enjoyable for busy adults, it is for young children! Children repeat games to practice and master a challenge. Doing things “all by themselves” is rewarding and builds self-confidence, encouraging children to take on challenges and try new things. Always remember how important repetition is for your child’s development!
- Try to limit questions When playing with your child, try not to constantly quiz them about concepts like colors, sizes, and sounds. As adults, we like to test our children’s knowledge by having them show us what they know. However, too many questions when playing can make it not fun for your child. Instead of “What color is this car? What does the car say?” try to comment about the objects at hand and encourage a more natural expansion of language, for example you could model “My red car is driving, beep beep, here we go!”
From the attached article, ideas for each age:
For Babies Under 6 Months
• Imitate the sounds your baby makes and try to have a “conversation” with your baby as you coo or babble back and forth to each other.
• Sing your favorite songs or lullabies to your baby.
• Talk to your baby about what you are doing. You might say, “I’m starting to cook dinner. First I wash my hands, etc.” or “I’m going to change your diaper now. First we take off your pants.”
• Talk to your baby about his/her surroundings, for example, “Look at your brother—he is laughing and having so much fun!” or “Look at those bright lights.”
• Read to your baby. Point out bright colored pictures with contrasting bright colors.
• Let your baby touch objects with different textures. Hold a toy within reach so he/she can swat it with his/her hands or feet. Try starting playtime slowly, with one toy or object, and gradually add others. See what kind of reactions you get. Are there smiles when a stuffed bear is touched and hugged? Does your child seem startled by the loud noises coming from the toy fire engine?
• How does your child react to different textures, smells, and tastes? For example, some objects might be particularly enjoyable for your little one to touch and hold. Others might "feel funny" to them. Read your child’s signals and change the materials you are using accordingly.
• Involve peers. It is important for children to establish relationships with other children their age. Encourage siblings to play together. Arrange times to play with other children or family members. Check out opportunities to play with other kids at the park or during free public library story hours. Having fun with peers is an important way for children to learn social skills like sharing, problem solving, and understanding others’ feelings— and also helps prepare children for the school setting later on.
• Imitate your child’s sounds. Encourage a dialogue by taking turns listening and copying each other’s sounds.
• Use containers to fill with objects like toys or sand, and dump them out. You might use a shoebox with soft foam blocks or other babysafe small toys.
For Toddlers 12-24 Months
• Sing special songs while changing a diaper or getting ready for bed.
• Keep reading and talking together. When looking at a book, ask your child questions about the pictures like, “Where is the doggy?” Show your excitement by acknowledging when your child points to the object: “Yes, you know where the doggy is!”
• Hide behind a door, the couch, or the high chair, then pop up and say, “Surprise!” If your child enjoys this game, change the location where you pop up. For example, if you usually pop up from under the high chair, try popping up from under the table. This switch will delight him/her!
• Use play objects to act out pretend actions. For example, use a toy phone to say, “Ring ring ring. It’s the phone. Hello. Oh, you are calling for Teddy. Teddy, the phone is for you.” Use a toy car to move across the floor saying, “Vroom, vroom, go car go!”
• Help your child stack blocks and then share his/her excitement when he/she knocks it down.
• Explore the outdoors by taking walks, visiting a park, or helping your child run up or down grassy hills.
For Babies 6 to 12 Months
• Start a bedtime routine that includes time to interact with your baby and read or describe pictures from books.
• Use bath time as a time to gently splash, pour, and explore the water.
• Play peek-a-boo by covering your face and then removing your hands while you say, “Surprise!” or “Peek-a-boo!” and make a surprised facial expression.
• Hide your child’s favorite toy under a blanket and ask him/her where the toy went. Encourage your child to look for it and/or help him/her find it. You can ask, “Where did your bear go? Is it on the couch? Is it behind the pillow? Oh, here it is under the blanket!”
• Play hide and seek. “Hide” yourself (leave lots of you showing!), and if your child is crawling, encourage him/her to come and find you.
For Toddlers 24-36 Months
• Continue to read and talk often to your child. When looking at books together, give your child time to look at the pictures before reading the words. Begin to ask questions about the book such as, “Why did he do that?”, “What happens next?”, and “Where did she go?”
• Dance and jump around to music and encourage your child to join you.
• Support your child’s imagination by providing dress-up clothes like scarves, hats, pocketbooks, or your old shoes; and props such as plastic kitchen bowls and plates, or toy musical instruments.
• Encourage your child’s creativity by playing with crayons, markers, play dough, finger paint, paints, etc.
• Use play objects that look like the “real” thing: child-sized brooms and dust pans, pots and pans, toy cash registers, etc.
And most importantly… have fun!