Day 5 of Better Hearing and Speech Month
Play is an important part of a child's development. You can look up any recommendation from any teacher, pediatrician, SLP, OT, PT, Child Psychologist and they will tell you that. Play helps children develop skills needed for life. Watching Cha-cha playing trains right now, he is demonstrating spatial awareness skills in setting up the trains, problem solving when the track doesn't go the way he wants it to go, and practicing scripts between trains as they pass each other on the track. I'm sure there are more things he's learning by playing with his trains, but these are the ones stick out to me right now.
An early part of Cha-cha's therapy through Early Intervention was all based on play. Toys were brought in and the goal was to elicit movement and language from him based on his play. I still remember the SLP desperately trying to get him to say "up" and "down" with a ball maze. Cha-cha would happily oblige to bringing the ball up when she said it, but we were lucky got get him to say "uh" maybe once or twice in an hour long session at 2 years old. Now in therapy, it is still mostly play based. Cha-cha picks toys out of the therapist's closet and she bases his therapy around the games and toys (often at a moment's notice). It takes a lot of creativity to push him and engage him, but we're grateful to his SLP and her creativity that gets him to work hard towards achieving his goals.
I remember the EI Developmental Specialist exclaiming how advanced our children's play skills were, and I remember her asking me what I did to help facilitate it. In our house, toys overflow the rooms - especially the living room where we spend most of our time. To some, our living room is overwhelming with toy chaos, but for our children, it's their creative zone. The hours they play are building blocks for learning, and they enjoy doing it close to us, but not always engaging us. I joked that my children learned to play because I ignored them - which really isn't true, but to an extent my children were and are encouraged to play by themselves. I distinctly remember from my childhood, playing in my room, dancing, singing and creating while my mom cleaned, cooked, or studied in the other room. It wasn't that her or I are bad parents, we just allowed our children space to be creative. We definitely do sit down on the floor and play, or work on something together, but they enjoy playing by themselves. My parents limited TV and we didn't have many video games (same with Hubby). We try to limit TV and ipad screen time, but our children often get bored of TV and would rather play than watch it when it is on. We also don't have any video game systems in our house. I have to say, it makes for a quieter household. ;)
Something that Hubby and I also do is we take our children out - a lot. We have memberships to the zoo and to the science museum. The kids like to hike the small "mountain" near a pond in our city. They love parks and exploring beaches. When I send in Cha-cha's weekend note to share with the class (listing a good 6-7 events of his weekend), his teacher often comments to me that the thing that he talks about most about his weekend is playing with his toys or playing in the backyard in his sandbox. Cha-cha looks forward to Saturdays and Sundays (and free weekday afternoons) playing with his "guys" (Imaginext figures), "wobbly-boots guys" (Matchbox Big Boots), playdough, and the Thomas Trains. He will often comment that he has a lot of "work" to do with his toys. Our living room (and the kids bedrooms) may look like Toys R' Us explosions, but great "work" is being done there.
What sorts of things do you do to encourage play in your house?