What is learning through play?
‘Learning through play’ simply means playing in a fun, engaging way that helps babies and toddlers learn how to interact with the world around them. As they grow, learning through play can help children develop language and social skills, encourage creativity, help with problem-solving and develop their emotions.
How and when do you help a child learn through play?
The earlier you can engage your child in fun, imaginary games the better! And it’s easy to do. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some simple ideas:
Learning through play ideas
Even really young babies will love looking at baby books with you and is a great way for them to start learning about the world outside. ‘Someone bought Seb a tiny board book that you attach to the stroller which was literally just a few pages of farm animals,’ says dad, Jon. ‘Just pointing to the animals and making the noises fascinated him. When he started to be able to make the noises back, it was pure joy for me!’
Sing to your baby
Sitting with your baby and singing classic nursery rhymes – Old Macdonald had a farm; Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Incy Wincy Spider, complete with actions, will keep them hugely entertained while introducing them to new sounds, rhythms, and movements. Look out for ‘rhyme time’ classes near you - a great way for baby to learn while you meet some other new parents.
Do role-play games
As your baby becomes a toddler, play imaginary games with them like doctors, ‘house’ and schools. ‘The first time I remember doing “imaginary” play with Charlotte was when we had a tea party with her teddies, and she absolutely loved it,’ says mom, Emily. ‘Just sitting them round in a circle and “pouring tea” was so simple to do but a really lovely way of keeping her entertained and interested.’
Play arts and crafts
When you start to get a little worn out from running around pretending to be doctor/schoolteacher/dinosaur (because we know, it is tiring), engage your child with some arts and crafts. Play-dough is a great tool for helping develop creativity, as are drawing and painting too.
Ultimately learning through play should be fun for both of you, so let your playful side loose and revel in watching their imagination run wild. And for more advice on how to entertain a mobile baby, read our article on winter activities for babies and messy play ideas here.