Time and again, both research and experience shows that babies and toddlers get a lot more out of interactive play than they do from passively observing. As parents, we want the best for our little ones: we want to give them optimal opportunities in life, taking advantage of this time when they are like sponges, soaking up new information and learning life skills and life lessons that will see them growing into successful happy adults. The good news is that you are ideally placed to be both your child's best playmate and teacher with the simple experiences you provide them every day.
The learning journey starts from birth. When your baby’s little mind is still developing, you have the perfect opportunity to nurture them and enable them to adopt positive learning habits that they will continue to use all through their life.
To help you get started, here are our 3 top tips to use when playing with your baby so you can help them to become super learners!
1) Provide lots of sensory opportunities
Every day, each of your baby's 5 senses are searching for stimulation to help them learn about the world around them. When you are choosing toys or looking for inspiration, think about what senses they will explore in the process.
Children need the chance to discover their environment through their sight, their sense of smell, their sense of taste, hearing and touch. Here are some simple ideas to support their sensory learning.
Give your baby access to objects that are brightly coloured and bold, ideally the primary colours or black and white print.
Add scents like vanilla or mint to homemade play dough. Encourage your baby to explore their food by smelling it.
When weaning, give your baby a varied diet (following directions from your Health Visitor). Allow them to explore their foods, and don’t worry if they reject them, try again another day - it is all part of the discovery process.
Your baby responds more to your voice than anything else. Sing to them, talk to them, hum to them. Ideally give them the opportunity to mix with lots of other people too, adults and children, so they can learn to distinguish between them.
Hard plastic toys might be popular but young children need a huge variety of physical experiences: soft, hard, fluffy, crunchy, bouncy, ridged, tickly and such like. Children also respond to natural materials, so try to fill their toy box with sensory delights.
2) Let them lead
One mistake we can all make with our children is helping them too much as they play. We might see a toy we think they would like and then want to show them how to use it. This habit could potentially continue when your baby is no longer a baby and needs help with homework - as great as it is to support our children as they learn, it is important not to do it for them.
Allowing your baby to lead the play and to personally explore objects develops more sophisticated parts of their brain. It is the first chance they will get to problem solve and this key skill is imperative for super learners.
Independent play is important, but when they want you to physically play with them, they will give you a play cue (this is an invitation for you to join in their play). With older children, this might be actually asking you to join in but with younger ones who have not yet developed language, they can equally offer you clear cues through their gestures. Play alongside them, talk them through their play but let them make the play choices.
3) Vary their experiences
You might have an extensive toy box full of expensive toys but children need as many new experiences as possible. Provide them with lots of different opportunities with a variety of resources. You can do this by rotating the toys you have at home but also by taking your child out to new places, groups and classes. Each place you go will have a wealth of new discoveries which will speed up your baby’s intake of experiences and help them to learn something new each day.
Enjoy Learning at Tots Play
At Tots Play, we understand that young children learn best when using their whole body and all their senses and provide a diverse range of experiences in every class. From yoga poses to stretch the body, music to stimulate their brain and sensory collections to explore, your little one will encounter amazing opportunities to absorb the world within a Tots Play class with you by their side. If you haven't tried our classes yet, why not come and join us soon and see the benefits for yourself.
Learn more about our classes HERE, and find details of your local sessions HERE.
No classes near you yet? Perhaps you or someone you know could be the one to bring them to your area? Find out about how you could run your own, family friendly, business through our competitive franchise programme HERE.
What will you and your little one learn about today? Whatever it is, happy playing!
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