Learning to draw and building towers out of blocks may seem like kids’ stuff, but it’s actually super important! Playing with your child helps them expand their imaginations and build valuable problem-solving skills.
Importance of Playing with Your Child
Here are some reasons why playing is important at every stage of your child’s growth, and some ideas for how to play together.
- Baby Time: Ages 0-2
When your child is a newborn, the whole world seems like a playground. There’s so much to learn and explore as they grow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children are primarily learning about social and emotional connections at this stage. So, make sure to spend lots of time cuddling, loving, and talking to your baby! She or he will find your voice soothing, even if they don’t fully understand words yet. Try singing silly songs and reading books. This will help your child begin to understand how sounds connect to each other.
Make sure to keep an eye on how your baby is feeling. If they seem tired or sleepy, it’s okay to take a break from playing together for a while. And, while it may seem tempting to put on some cartoons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually recommends that kids under 18 months should not take in any screen media.
- On A Roll: Ages 2-6
As your child grows from being a toddler to a “bigger kid,” they reach some important developmental milestones, like being able to name colors and ride a tricycle. They will also become more independent. At this stage, begin to encourage your child to play with other kids. This can help them learn to share and build fun friendships. Skills like taking turns with a favorite purple shovel or cooperating building with blocks can translate into the classroom.
Of course, safety is always important. Because your child is beginning to explore more of the world outside the house, teach them simple safety tips. Make sure they know to not play in traffic and stay with them while they ride their tricycle around the block. Teach them to be aware of strangers and how to stay safe in unfamiliar locations like restaurants and museums.
- Up And At It: Ages 7-10
Kids at this age can better express how they feel, know how to respect others, and enjoy being part of a team or social group. When it’s time to play, it’s fun to do things as a family and organize events for your child and their friends. If they are part of a sports team or in the school play, spend time helping them with their moves or learning their lines.
Make sure to also establish clear ground rules. If you give your child a cell phone, teach them when they are allowed to use it and when they should have it off: do they need to contact you after lacrosse practice? Are they allowed to chat with their friends for half an hour before dinner? These rules can foster a sense of independence while still maintaining boundaries you’ll feel comfortable about.