Watching a child play is so beautiful! Although it seems so basic, play provides several hidden contributions for the child. The function of play would be quite different for a child when compared to an adult. For instance, I would use play when I want to relax or when I want to socialize with others. On the other hand, for a child, it provides a great platform to further overall development. It becomes a means to build skills, be it motor, cognitive, attention or even language. A child would also be able to learn to be creative and challenge themselves while also learning how to engage and socialize with others.
Play consumes almost all the child’s waking hours (especially in the infancy and toddler years). Then it seems logical for a parent or therapist to engage a child through it, thus encouraging children to learn.
How do we play with our child, you ask?
One of the many ways to do so is with the use of TOYS!
The booming toy industry can surely be of assistance here. There are a vast range of toys available, with items available specific to gender, color, use and even age range or groups. A few personal favorites for different age ranges are:
At infancy: Toy mobile (not the phone!), simple action reaction toys, cloth books and toys
During toddler years: Stacking cups or rings, textured books, doll and cars, sand and water tables
As a preschooler: Microphone, variety of books, pretend play toys, art accessories
How to decide what toy to buy?
When going out to buy a toy for a child (for learning skills), a few basic thoughts must be borne in mind:
This plan may be considered frugal, but it is a working personal guideline. Especially, when I am looking at investing in a new toy and have a huge diversity of them available online or at the local toy store.
Special care must be taken when choosing and using toys for a child with delays or who is differently abled. These toys will provide a wonderful scaffolding to build skills one step at a time. While using toys with children with delays (to build skills), a few points that should be kept in mind are:
- Know which target skill or goal is being aimed at.
- Don’t always stick to the way a particular toy is to be played. Such as a stacking rings, can be used for stacking of course – but who says we can’t play a musical game of follow the leader with it?
- Having too many toys at a time is not a good thing. You should try limiting the number of toys that are being played with at a time. Why not rotate the toys that are being used over the weeks?
- Remember to be at the child’s level when playing and get the child to move about.
- Encourage the child to lead play, as often as possible, while you give inputs to engage and learn a new skill!
- For a child, who is learning to play – play alongside him / her. The child can learn loads through imitation.
- And most importantly, keep play fun! This is sometimes easier said than done, but is crucial to maintain a child’s interest over a sitting or days.
Good luck! And keep learning through play! One is never too old for a little fun!
This article was written by Tanushree Saxena Chandhok, our speech therapy expert
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