Helping Toddlers Learn through Play

Learning through play is something you might hear a lot when your child is young, but really it isn’t a particularly new idea. As adults, we learn through play all the time. As we play a computer game, take part in a sport or enjoy a hobby, we are learning new skills and honing old ones without even realizing it. For children, this effect is magnified many times over ? children play so much that a very large part of their learning takes place as they play.

Pre-schools, nurseries and primary schools all recognize the importance of play in the learning process and you can do the same at home by making the most of your child’s playtime and getting involved in games that promote learning. Not only will your child be learning new skills, you will both have fun.

Developing physical skills

To help your child’s balance and get them moving faster and more confidently, try playing games that encourage movement. This could be as simple as playing tag with your child or chasing them round the garden. You can help their balance (which can have the added bonus of reducing those heart- stopping wobbles that all toddlers have!) by setting up some simple stepping stones. Indoors you can use books or even squares of paper to create the ‘stepping stones?; while outdoors you can use actual stones, bricks or logs. The idea is to turn the learning into an adventure. So pretend there are crocodiles in the ?water? and encourage your child to get across the ?river? using the ‘steeping stones?. Your child’s balance will improve dramatically and you are exercising their imagination too!

Developing Speech and Understanding

Word games are a fun activity in the car or before bed, even around the dinner table. Simple games such as I-Spy are fun for young children; get your child to guess which object you are thinking of (use colours as clues rather than initial letters for younger children). Your child will want to take their turn to get you guessing and they will be naming objects and phrasing questions too. Finding fun rhymes is another way to boost your child’s understanding and enjoyment of language.

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Role Play Games

One of the best ways to teach your child about the world around them is to make use of fun imagination games. Role play is a fantastic way to do this, and it makes use of the fact that toddlers generally love to pretend to be other things ? if your little one has even told you that they are, in fact, a tiger (and therefore shouldn’t have to eat their toast?) then you can make the most of their imagination. You can buy dress-up costumes and play-sets or you can use what you already have in your home to create imaginary worlds for your child; the important thing is to build in learning by explaining what the person/animal/imaginary creature does and getting involved so you can be part of the game. So today your toddler might be a postman making deliveries, tomorrow? a doctor, a gardener, a chef or a dragon ? the only limit is their imagination!