“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Mr. Rogers
Play is the foundation for all learning for young children, and giving your child the time and a few basic toys can provide them with a variety of valuable learning opportunities. Play is how children begin to understand and process their world. Children’s play unlocks their creativity and imagination, and develops reading, thinking, and problem-solving skills as well as fine and gross motor skills. When other children are introduced into the play, the learning opportunities grow again. They learn how to share equipment and ideas to initiate and sustain healthy interactions. They also learn how to problem solve when conflict occurs.
When you ask your child what they would like for Christmas they will typically suggest something that they have seen advertised or associate with their favorite TV show or movie. Getting one of those things is always a hit for a few days and so much fun to open on Christmas morning. Purchasing one of these currently desired toys is great for Christmas but typically, these toys have a short life with your child. Here are some suggestions for other play materials that last for multiple years.
Magnetic blocks; Wood blocks; Legos
These toys encourage more open-ended play and when presented in differing manners can facilitate new language and play scenes; for example:
When blocks are selected to play with children create structures and problem solve how to create towers and structures that balance and stay stable. When you add toy animals to the blocks or cars to the Legos then you create a whole new play dynamic. Now it’s a race track or a zoo or a construction site.
Board games encourage turn- taking, fun, laughter, social interaction, patience, empathy, family time, cognitive concepts, learning to win and lose well, (Handling disappointment).
Some classic but great games to own: Candy land, Charades 4 kids, Sequence 4 kids, Sorry, Hoot Owl Hoot
Open ended art materials create hours of fun. Glue sticks, paper, scissors, stamps, bingo boppers, modeling clay etc… This allows your child to be creative, create a plan and execute it, adapt the plan as they go and enjoy the wonderful state of satisfaction of creating a picture or model by themselves.
Imaginative play helps children process this social world, initiate and sustain social interactions, practice different roles and responses in a safe environment. They are practicing for the real world!