Developed exclusively for Little Tikes by our resident play expert Dr. Maggie Redshaw
Play is important to all of us (no matter how grown up we get), but it’s particularly essential for little ones as they grow and develop. Being able to play and have fun is really vital if children are to develop happily and meet their full potential. In other words, play is a key element in supporting the development of into well-rounded, able and effective grown-ups, just like Mummy and Daddy.
As you might imagine, toys and playthings are essential in this process - well-designed, safe and appropriate toys help to assist as children change and grow throughout their most formative years.
Play time can involve a mixture of the following:
Key characteristics of toys and play:
- Safe, stimulating and fun
- Appropriate for baby's stage of development
- Providing choices and opportunities
- Enabling and encouraging learning an development
In play there needs to be a balance between novelty and familiarity, meaning play that involves favourite toys and activities, combined with something new, exciting and different. As with everything in life, getting it right involves practice, patience and simply trying things out.
Early on the focus is on watching and listening, then reaching and touching, followed by grasping and using the mouth to explore. Connections are made between sights and sounds and babies quickly learn to predict what happens next. Simple social games can be enjoyed with Mums and Dads using hands, feet, funny noises and familiar toys.
With learning and experience the options increase and movement starts to become important as babies grow and develop into toddlers. As their physical world is growing, so is their social world and learning how things work and how the world is run is an important part of play, as are the new skills that are needed.
Even though all babies are individuals right from the very start and their likes and interests can and will change over time, we have developed some play personalities to help you spot and encourage different play types:
- Is your little one always excited to watch and touch everything you show them? Your young baby is probably a 'Little Learner' at the moment, watching and absorbing everything you show him, attracted by new shapes and textures
- Is your little one constantly focusing on physical skills like learning to crawl, walk, run and generally tire Mummy and Daddy out?
At the pre-toddler and toddler stage, your baby is a ‘Little Mover’ for the time being – look! He’s off again!
- Does your little one like to pull things apart and then carefully put it back together again? Some toddlers are great at concentrating on and manipulating quite complicated toys – your little one is a 'Little Builder' today, tomorrow an award-winning architect
- Is your little one most excited about discovering new materials to play with? Be it sand, mud, food or water? If your tot is always boldly experimenting with new materials and splashing about with water, he's probably at the 'Little Explorer' stage – be prepared for lots of messy meal and bath times
- Is your little one always trying to copy you and their older siblings? Are they excited to dress up and play at being an adult?
Just like adults, some babies are more socially orientated than others and want to be around Mummy and Daddy all the time, pretending to cook, clean and drive a car – they're 'Little Grown-ups' at the moment but be careful not to blink! It won’t be long before they’re old enough to think they can do everything for themselves