From the nursery to the playroom, playtime should be safe and fun. But experts say that beyond these considerations, these spaces should incorporate elements that promote early childhood development.
“Infancy and preschool years are a crucial time of children’s lives, when they are developing new motor, cognitive, language and social skills,” says Dr. Lise Eliot, Early Brain Development Expert and Expert Panel Member at VTech, a world leader in age-appropriate and developmental stage-based electronic learning products for children. “Toys should provide multi-sensory experiences that engage and cultivate a love of learning from a very young age, while delivering the developmental benefits appropriate for each child’s age and stage.”
To encourage growth and enrich children’s play experiences, Dr. Eliot and VTech offer these tips:
• Include books in the playroom and read often to your child. Doing so will demonstrate well before the school years begin that reading is not just for classroom, but also a recreational activity that can and should be done for fun. Look ahead by adding books that will be age-appropriate in the future.
• Development happens extremely rapidly, so seek out learning toys that grow with children. For example, the Sit-to-Stand Ultimate Alphabet Train, which teaches letters, numbers, colors and vocabulary, can be used for floor play or a ride on. Once babies are on their feet, it can be transformed into a walker or a wagon that can be pulled, helping to build motor skills.
• Kids are never too young to develop an appreciation for music. Babies can start by playing with tambourines, maracas, toy keyboards and other fun musical toys. Child-sized instruments can improve hand-eye coordination and rhythm, and set kids up for lifelong musical inspiration.
• Create safe zones in your house where kids can have free reign to play and explore. “The more opportunity children have for physical exertion and exploration, the better for the development of both their minds and bodies,” says Eliot.
• Focus on giving preschool age kids a head start on their education. Provide them with fun ways to get started, such as the Write & Learn Creative Center, which features animated demonstrations to teach proper stroke order for uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as drawing activities to inspire skills and creativity in young artists.
• Foster language and social skills by spending time each day playing together. The interactions you share are key to cognitive and emotional development as well as social and emotional growth. Research has proven that early two-way conversations with babies and young children are critical to their own speech and reading development. To encourage social skills and prepare young children for preschool, set up play dates with friends.
For more playful ideas, parenting tips and information about early childhood development, visit www.vtechkids.com/milestones.
By incorporating these elements and toys that nurture a range of critical cognitive and physical skills, you can make playtime not only fun, but functional.