Understanding and Nurturing Your Child's Play

Young children are joyful beings who love to experiment with different ways of looking at the world. Everything your child sees, hears, and touches is a new opportunity to expand his or her understanding, regardless of whether your child is playing with an expensive sensory toy or simply playing with his or her spaghetti. Early childhood education is an exciting journey. Give your child plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning in your Long Island home, and you’ll notice a positive difference in his or her academic skills.

Types of Play

All play might look similar to an adult, but experts have identified at least 10 types. Your child can benefit from all of them. Some of these types are listed below.

  • Unoccupied play: It falsely looks like a child isn’t doing anything. Random movements may be used, without a clear goal.
  • Independent play: Children ages two to three play independently more often than they play with each other. It helps kids learn to be self-sufficient.
  • Onlooker play: A child watches others play, but doesn’t participate. It doesn’t mean a child is feeling left out. Onlooker play lets children learn about cooperation.
  • Parallel play: Two children play adjacent to each other, without playing with each other. Although it seems like they’re isolated, they’re actually observing each other and learning social rules.
  • Cooperative play: Older preschoolers learn how to cooperate, share, and take turns.

Other types of play include pretend, competitive, and physical play.

Benefits of Play

The benefits of play are virtually limitless. Through play, your child can:

  • Learn new words
  • Practice problem-solving
  • Understand social cues and skills
  • Improve fine and gross motor skills
  • Develop emotional stability
  • Become more creative

You might notice that a typical preschool curriculum shares these developmental goals.

Encouragement of Play

Have fun playing alongside your child. Let him or her know that you’re interested in the activity. Make positive comments about what your child is doing, ask questions, and offer encouragement. A typical play-related conversation might look something like this:

  • “Goodness, Gracie, it sure looks like fun to turn over that toy basket and empty everything out. Where did the train toy go?”
  • “I see you’re trying to put the puzzle piece into that corner, but it doesn’t want to fit. Maybe you could try a different spot?”
  • “Are you a frog today? Let’s ribbit and hop across the floor.”

Don’t be afraid to let your child make a mess. It happens. Even when your child is purposely knocking down block towers or throwing spaghetti on the floor, he or she is learning about how the world works.