For kids, playtime is a constant learning experience. It promotes imaginative thinking, refines cognitive connections, and helps in the early development of fine motor skills. In fact, play is considered so important to childhood development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. This limitless potential, however, is being tapped less and less as early learning tools and toys are replaced by more passive screen time activities. So how can you ensure that the young learner in your life is getting the most out of their playtime experience?
Encourage Active Play
There are two fundamental kinds of play: active and passive. It’s a common misconception that active play has to involve a lot of movement. Active play can be any game, toy, or puzzle that inspires imagination and critical thinking. A child who is completing a jigsaw, for example, is engaging in active play. Every time they place a piece, they’re implementing memory building and problem-solving techniques.
In contrast, a child who is watching a television show is using their brain passively— they aren’t deducting information, it’s being handed to them. To encourage more productive play, set healthy limits on activities that don’t actively use the imagination. A great way to keep track of this time is through a simple screen time chart.
Take Advantage of Educational Toys
Educational toys are designed specifically with the connection between learning and play in mind, and they’re getting more advanced by the day. The CogniToys Dino, for example, uses the latest in smart technology to interact with kids intuitively. The Dino can help with things like spelling and math, but also plays games, tells jokes, and answers questions. Other educational toys can be as simple as a pack of cards or a board game, helping kids to have fun while identifying number and logic patterns.
When children play together, the only structure is the structure they create themselves. In addition to helping them learn the fundamentals of teamwork and social interaction, this gives them the opportunity to play their own way. Through this kind of free activity, kids learn to improvise, invent, and imagine — opening the gateway to the kind of fetterless creativity that adults can only dream of. If you aren't familiar with the playgroups in your area, try finding one on Meetup.
Whether your child prefers playing hopscotch or building a tower out of Legos, engaging in active play will help them develop the fundamental skills they need to succeed not just in school, but in life. Do you have an active play tip or trick that you want to share with other parents? Let us know! You can leave your comment below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.