In a previous issue of Au-Authm Action News, we discussed the ABC’s of learning and the impact it has on a child from the womb to their first year. The development doesn’t stop after a year; by this time the brain is a sponge, absorbing the information around it, and it is critical what is being communicated in order for a child to have a healthy brain. In this article we will go over three ways to communicate by playing with children as they become toddlers and start to find their way in the world.
Have you ever seen a toddler stick something in their mouth that shouldn’t be there? Of course you have, we see it all the time. It doesn’t mean the child is hungry. Instead, children are discovering what the objects that surround them are there for. During the toddler stages, the mouth and surrounding area has nerve receptors that are especially sensitive. Children use this area to identify an object and decide whether they like it or not, if it hurts or not, if it’s cold, scratchy, etc. Thus, the physical nature of the object is being explored.
As the child gets older, the active nerve receptors move from the mouth area to the hands. This is why children grab objects and fondle them, again exploring and identifying if it’s cold, warm, itchy, smooth, etc. Feeling other people’s hands and faces and playing games like pattycake and balls with soft bumps help the child to get sensation through the hands.
Play is vital to a toddler’s social and emotional development. For example, once they hit the 1-year mark, most children will become a lot easier to dress, helping by holding their arms and legs out. Mimicking simple actions is how they determine what’s good and not good behavior among others. Playing alone and engaging with their peers is a sign children are off to becoming part of the social world.
Another vital example for social and emotional development is affection. Children are watching how other people treat one another, by kissing and hugging and imitating adults. Children are more aware in this stage and mockery is a way of understanding how to express a variety of emotions. Consistency, praise and modeling appropriate behavior around children will demonstrate how they should act in the world.
As the child matures with problem-solving and functionality, so does their intellect development. Reading is probably the single most important type of play you can do with your child. Reading engages the child and provokes the imagination, provides an opportunity to become closer and builds on the emotional connection, and helps children learn to listen and comprehend.
Choosing stories about scenarios they can relate to in their lives (bedtime, going potty) helps them begin to relate to the reading material. It’s always a great idea to start reading to your child at the earliest moments, even in the womb.
Singing is another great way to communicate and play with your child. Try speaking the words “twinkle, twinkle little star” in a regular voice. It doesn’t make sense to them. But when the words are sung, we have this natural way of slowing down the words, and it becomes a lot easier to learn them.
Other intellectual play includes basic blocks and Lego® bricks (pay attention to age limits for small parts). Sets like the Star Wars, Ninjago and City don’t do the child good, as it tells them what piece goes where. Instead, the regular box allows for their brain to problem-solve and create their own interpretation of what a dog or a Transformer looks like.
All in all, there is no wrong way to play. A child’s play can be whatever it wishes and it starts at birth, sometimes in the womb (like singing and reading) or soon after. Play can range from talking and slobbering on a foreign object to playing with blocks and discovering the functionality of them. More importantly, communicating with your child through play helps them develop a healthy brain, emotional connection and the confidence to figure things out. Keep it simple and talk, listen, sing and read to your child. During the first three years, a child’s brain is able to pick up anything and everything you throw at it, providing the best time to build a relationship, communication and a healthy brain.