Thinking of ways to fill the day with your baby is not always easy. Some days fly by and it's lunchtime before you realise you’ve not yet had that cup of tea you made 2 hours ago. Yet other days really seem to drag, and you struggle to find ways to keep both of you occupied in any meaningful way.
This blog will hopefully give you some practical advice and tips on how to support your child’s play at home and explain why simply ‘playing’ is a lot more developmentally beneficial than you might think.
Play is defined as a range of motivated activities done for pleasure. It’s inherently enjoyable, and something that brings us pleasure makes us want to do more of it. The purpose of play is to make sense of the world. Whilst playing, your baby is learning a multitude of things; building resilience; developing their motor skills; developing memory; cognitive skills; social and communication skills and building confidence in their opinions and their ability to make independent decisions.
Learning through play is an inevitable part of all children’s development - so harnessing this through the activities we do with them, to extend these learning opportunities, is a great way to support your baby as they grow. This is called ‘scaffolding’ – and is the foundation of play-based learning.
Play based learning is based on scaffolding - where one concept builds on to another. This is where adult assisted play is incredible for your baby’s development. Adding words and language or helping extend one activity into another – is a fantastic way for you to build on your child’s natural desire to play and support the learning opportunity it provides.
Open ended play - where there is no end goal to the play – is of huge benefit to children in their early years. So instead of setting out a paint activity in a really structured way i.e. “We’re going to paint a picture of a dinosaur and talk about what we’re drawing” - try simply getting the paints out and letting them go wild. They might end up with a finger painting, or simply splodging and swirling paints onto paper– but there is still a learning opportunity in that. Instead of looking at your role as the leader, try looking at it as the guider. Instead of learning and directing play, children generally learn best when their play is self-directed and scaffolded. So that free-flow splodgy swirls of paint– what patterns can we see in it? “Wow! Your red and blue colours mixed together, and you made a new colour – purple! What happens when we mix yellow and blue?” You’ve just delivered a science lesson without even trying, but most importantly – you’ve helped your child take the lead and you’ve been there to guide.
The best outcome for learning occurs where most of the activity with a child’s day is a mixture of:
- Child initiated play, actively supported by adults
- Focused learning with adults guiding the learning through playful, rich, experiential activities.
Sensory play is great for open ended play and a great way to play with babies of all ages. It can be messy – so get prepared with an apron for older children and for younger babies we recommend using the Bib & Tray Kit as a great safe sensory surface.