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What is the role of “play” in early childhood development?

Children love to play – and this is a universal truth! Most of their time is spent trying to figure out the world around them through fun and frolic. Their love for adventure and undying curiosity gives them a foot in the door to explore everything around them. This exploration leads to a lot of impromptu learning. Though the toy market is booming today with a lot of focus on ‘academic’, ‘sensory’, and ‘cognitive’ development, children actually do not need a lot of equipment or toys to play with. With regular household items and just a little thought, babies and toddlers can have a wholesome playtime.

4 ways to engage children without a lot of toys

Sensory play – As the name suggests, it is a type of childplay that engages the senses. This includes activities such as playing in sand, water, mud and more. It also includes exciting activities such as finger painting and entertaining oneself with play dough. Sensory play is a great way for children to learn about the world around them and to develop their motor skills.

Imaginary play – Here children use their imaginations to create different worlds and characters. This includes activities such as role-playing, pretend play, and dress-up. Imaginary childplay is a great way for children to develop their creativity and social-emotional skills.

Constructive play – Constructive play is a type of childplay where children build something. This can include activities such as building with blocks, playing with Legos, and fixing puzzles. Constructive play is a great way for little minds to develop their problem-solving skills and their fine motor skills.

Active play – This is a type of childplay where children are physically active. This may include activities like running, jumping, and playing sports. Active play is a great way for children to develop their gross motor skills and to stay healthy.

Here are top 10 activities that you can do to engage children in their early childhood years through play:

Toys are a lot of fun even for adults and many a times, we buy them to satisfy our fascination. Children could care less if they have a fancy toy or a simple box, if the play is interesting. Here are some early childhood education techniques to keep those little minds active and engaged through the day:

  1. Sorting – From sorting fruits and vegetables into separate baskets to arranging the plates and spoons in the kitchen, this is a fun exercise to keep children engaged. Sorting could be used as an introduction to size, shape, or even colour.

  2. Measuring – Involving them in measuring ingredients for a recipe can help children understand the concept of quantity and make them feel useful in the kitchen.

  3. Scavenger Hunting – Who doesn’t enjoy a good scavenger hunt, right? With random items lying around the house, children can have a fun playtime finding hidden items.

  4. Counting – One of the first concepts that can be easily introduced to toddlers is numbers. Stairs, plates, bottles, books, cars or anything that fascinates the child can be used to help them enjoy counting.

  5. Singing – The most fun engagements for children are singing and dancing. It could be reciting rhymes and poems or dancing to songs in any language of your or their choice. This helps toddlers not just with their vocabulary but also with their ideas of expression.

  6. Matching – Similar items or related items can be used to help the little one with the idea of matching. Matching colours, shapes, or a cup with the respective saucer are all ways to keep them engaged and interested in their surroundings.

  7. Playing Simon says – This is a fun way to help toddlers understand the concept of following instructions. This can keep them engaged for a long time with simple directions to follow and as they progress, the instructions can be made more complex and challenging.

  8. Painting – Colours bring joy to everyone including children. This can be used as a means of both creative expression and messy play. Various kinds of colours and techniques can be used for this purpose, including watercolours, pencil colours, crayons, or markers.

  9. Identifying textures – Young children absolutely love to engage all their senses when they play. So, an activity that involves squishing sand, playing with slime, feeling different textiles, etc, can be entertaining. They can touch, interpret and engage with objects, before learning how to use them later on.

  10. Having fun with water – You would agree that water play is fun even for adults. Whenever there is a need to burn off some energy or relax the child, water play can come to the rescue. This could involve filling up different cans, water balloon tossing, or simply splashing in water.

Parents and caregivers can explore and play some or all these games with their children and focus on utilizing a play-based learning approach to keep their toddlers engaged with the best outcome and have their prolonged interest.

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