12 ways to help your child develop better through play

February 21, 2017
  • 12 ways to help your child develop better through play
    1 / 7 12 ways to help your child develop better through play

    “Finish your vegetables and take more fruits!” 

    Sounds familiar? You’ve probably repeated this mantra one too many times to your preschooler. 

    After all, as parents, our wish is to see our little ones grow and develop healthily to their fullest potential. 

    While healthy eating plays a pivotal role in a child’s growth, there are other factors that contribute to their learning and development as well. 

    Child development expert Gill Connell believes that play time is essential as it helps to build up your kid’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional foundations for early learning and school readiness. 

    “It’s not only a nutritional diet, but a physical one that will help to develop them,” she adds. 

    Movement from natural play not only helps children to develop their muscles, but it is also at the core of how the brain develops. 

    It shapes how kids think, react and learn, which explains why physical activity is imperative for the development of young minds. 

    “In a nutshell, learning is never about sitting still,” she says. 

    Here, Gill shares some examples on how parents can play with their kids and provide them with sensory experiences based on the different stages of development they are at. 

    Related: 3 ways dance lessons help your child’s development

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  • Snugglers (From birth to rolling over)
    2 / 7 Snugglers (From birth to rolling over)

    Infants in this group learn about the world largely through ingesting sensory information. Therefore, providing them with a gentle, rich and steady diet of sensory experiences gives them the jump start they need.

    What you can do: 

    1. Lie baby on the floor. Hold her arms and gently bring it up to meet and then back down to the ground. Put on some gentle music and repeat these steps several times. 
    How this helps: This trains her coordination and it helps her to learn that her body has different sides which supports independent moving. 

    2. Have baby lie on her back and hold her favourite toy above her. Move it slowly from side to side. Watch her eyes follow the toy, and gradually change the direction. 
    How this helps: This activity helps to develop her eye fitness, which is necessary for reading at a later age. 

    Related: Why music is important for baby development: How it helps 

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  • Squigglers (Kids who are in the rocking, crawling and sitting stage)
    3 / 7 Squigglers (Kids who are in the rocking, crawling and sitting stage)

    Children in this group are sharpening their sight and hearing, and exploring more with their mouths. They are particularly interested in textures and scents. Therefore, continued sensory experiences (especially multi-sensory) should be included in their daily play. 

    What you can do: 

    1. In your sitting position, sit baby down on your lap, and blow some bubbles into the air. Take your little one’s hands in your and together clap the bubbles goodbye. Each time a bubble burst, make a pop sound. 
    How this helps: This activity helps to develop her eye fitness, which is necessary for reading at a later age. 

    2. Sit with baby between your legs and introduce him to a drum. Assist him to tap the drum with his fingers at various speed. Parents can also put some music on and drum to the beat. 
    How this helps: Understanding beat, rhythm and tempo creates the early beginnings of many sophisticated reasoning skills such as sorting, patterning and sequencing. 

    Related: How music helps your child’s brain

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  • Scampers (Kids who are in the pulling up to walking stage)
    4 / 7 Scampers (Kids who are in the pulling up to walking stage)

    Children at this stage need lots of time exploring space and objects. Their senses now act even more as the fuel for movement. Therefore, encourage self-directed exploration by providing a sensory-rich environment that includes both familiar favourites and new experiences. 

    What you can do:

    1. After showering your child, roll her up in a towel and let her ‘un-roll’ herself. 
    How this helps: Rolling is a wonderful activity to help children to develop their vestibular (balance), says Gill. The most advanced form of balance is to be still and you can’t teach a child to sit still by practising sitting still. Therefore, this activity will not only help develop her balance, but also builds up her concentration skills. 

    2. Sit on the floor with your little one between your legs. Hold his hands and slowly open his arms to the side, then quickly spring them back to a clap in the centre. Next, keep his right arm stretched out in front and open only his left arm to the side and spring both to a clap. Repeat to the right, followed by the same pattern with his legs. 
    How this helps: Exploring movements with one or both sides of his body works to develop his brain’s full understanding of the body’s many dimensions. It also helps the little one identify which is his dominant side, and at a later stage, the emergence of the preferred hand. 

    Related: 5 secrets to raising a creative toddler with high EQ

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  • Stompers (Kids who are in the running and jumping stage)
    5 / 7 Stompers (Kids who are in the running and jumping stage)

    Kids in this group are not ready for delicate, graceful movements but they are picking up speed and endurance. Therefore, high-energy activities and a wide space area to move helps to build their self-confidence, strength and ability to make big, whole-body movements. 

    What you can do:

    1. Put a long rope (or skipping rope) on the floor and let the little one jump over continuously from the start to the end of the rope. 
    How this helps: Jumping is a major milestone for children in this development group. It helps them learn about gravity and it is also a good way to develop their fitness and stamina. 

    2. Tunnel Play – line up a group of chairs and throw a blanket over the top to make a tunnel. Encourage your little one to move through the tunnel as different animals. Say ‘I wonder how a snake would crawl through the tunnel?’ Or a rabbit; mouse; chicken etc. 
    How this helps: Moving in different ways helps him to learn he can move and manipulate his body in many ways which will strengthen his coordination and body control. 

    Related: 8 secrets to toddler discipline 

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  • Scooters (Kids who are in the hopping and climbing stage)
    6 / 7 Scooters (Kids who are in the hopping and climbing stage)

    Big whole body movements are the jet fuel for this stage. Kids are gaining more coordinated control over their coordination (midlines), so they should not isolate the movements of different body parts. 

    What you can do: 

    1. If you have an office chair, have your child sit on it. Place a rubbish bin near to the chair and give him a soft ball. As he spins slowly, encourage him to drop the ball into the bin. 
    How this helps: This activity helps him learn the complex skill of timing. One of the most advanced forms of timing (temporal awareness) is to cross the road judging how far and fast the cars are moving.

    2. Hold a bean bag in one hand and encourage your child to pass it around their body. Call out the different body parts to vary the game. To make it more challenging, make them change their direction when you shout “change”. 
    How this helps: This helps your child to understand his body which is important for establishing body awareness and control. It also helps to develop coordination. 

    Related: 4 ways to help your self-conscious girl 

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  • Skedaddlers (Kids who are in the skipping, leaping, cooperative games and dance stage)
    7 / 7 Skedaddlers (Kids who are in the skipping, leaping, cooperative games and dance stage)

    Children in this group are nearing the finishing line of movement development and achieving full automaticity (the ability to move without stopping to think about what they are doing). Therefore, they should be engaged in a more imaginative and pretend play, with and without playmates. 

    What you can do: 

    1. Play tag but instead of running, change it to hopping
    How this helps: Hopping assists in the development of one-sided movement needed for important skills such as writing where one side of the body needs to remain still while the other moves. 

    2. Tie a rope to two chairs, or have two people hold the ends of each side. Put on some music and limbo under the rope. Next, lower the rope a little and limbo again. 
    How this helps: Physical perseverance yields mental toughness, shares Gill. It’s important to engage the little ones in games that test their abilities to move in different ways over a distance. 

    This activity-based programme will be used at the Early Learning Village (for children aged 18 months to six years), which will open from July.

    Related: 10 ways to develop creativity in your preschooler

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