The Art of Play for the under Two’s

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Ready…set…peek-a-boo! Oh no… you got me! Its all just child’s play, but is it really just for children?

As adults we forget how to be silly and play but we know that play is an integral part of a child’s development. It is how a child learns from the world, their environment and their experiences. Through the silliness and fun of play a child develops language, problem solving skills, the ability to move and manipulate objects and imaginative thinking.

When playing with others, a child learns how to interact with and learn from others. Through play, a child learns words and ideas about the world around them (e.g. when a block is too big to fit into a little cup). When the child understands these words and ideas, they may be ready to try saying them. Playing allows you to have fun with your child while also helping them to develop their communication skills at the same time. Playing also allows a child to develop tolerance and awareness of sensory input (e.g. being swung, feeling different textures).

At the young age of 2, children start to explore their environment and imitate everyday activities. They may engage in simple pretend play involving toys or themselves (e.g. feeding a doll or themselves). Children tend to place one object inside another, play with cause-effect toys (toys that do something when you do something to them such as pop up toys) and hand a toy to an adult for assistance when they need help.

Simple play ideas for under 2 years might include:

Peek-a-boo games

Peek-a-boo games can be played from behind the furniture, the curtains or another person, under the table, from beneath a towel/scarf or when getting dressed. During play, ask questions and comment using an excited voice (e.g. ‘Where are you?’, ‘There you are!’).

Finger Puppets

Draw faces on your fingers or make finger puppets and wiggle them near to your face and then hide them. Comment about what the puppets look like (e.g. ‘This one is happy/sad’, ‘It has big/little eyes’), what they are doing (e.g. ‘Where did it go?’, ‘Here is it!’) and make sounds/noises (e.g. ‘Boo!’)

Posting pig/blocks

Take turns in playing the activity and comment about whose turn it is (e.g. ‘My turn’, ‘Your turn’). Also, talk about what you are doing with the blocks or items that are being posted away (e.g. ‘Fall down’, ‘It’s inside’’) or when building the blocks (e.g. ‘Up’, ‘down’). Make noises for the items when you post them (e.g. ‘plop’, ‘swoosh’) or when the block tower you have made falls down (e.g. ‘Uh-oh’).

Singing Songs and Rhymes

Some examples are ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, ‘Incey Wincey Spider’, ‘Pat-a-cake’, ‘Round and round the garden’, ‘Row-the-boat’ and ‘Open Shut Them’. Use gestures/actions as you sing the song/rhyme (e.g. making the shape of a star with your fingers for ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, holding your child’s hands and moving them back and forth with yours for ‘Row-the-boat’).

Animals

Animal sounds can be made while looking at picture books, solving puzzles, playing with farmyard toys and singing songs such as ‘Old McDonald had a farm’ (e.g. ‘moo’, ‘baa’, ‘oink oink’, ‘meow’, ‘woof’, ‘quack’). Also, provide the name of the animals in play (e.g. A “cow” says ‘moo’). At times you may want to hide the toy animals and encourage your child to look for them. When they find the animal, you can make the animal sound.

Ball games

You could pass a ball slowly from left to right so that your child can follow it with their eyes, make it disappear behind your back or behind your head and play throw/roll/catch games. Take turns in using the ball with your child. Comment about whose turn it is (e.g. ‘My turn’, ‘Your turn’) and about what you or your child has done with the ball (e.g. ‘Up and down!’, ‘Bounce, bounce, bounce!’).

Bubbles

Make sure that your child is looking at you before blowing the bubbles. Say “Ready..Set..Go” before you blow the bubbles. On the next turn, pause between the words to see if your child can finish the sequence (e.g. “Ready…Set….?”). When the bubbles are floating in the air, make comments about what you are doing (e.g. ‘Pop’) or what you can see (e.g. ‘Big/little bubble’, ‘All gone’).

Doll and teddy play

Initially your child will learn about pretend play though imitating others (e.g. giving a drink to mum, putting a spoon in a cup). As their pretend play improves encourage your child to pretend feeding a doll or brushing its hair. Encourage them to begin to perform 2 or 3 actions in their play (e.g. feed the doll, wrap it in a blanket and put it to bed). Also encourage your child to use similar looking objects for a needed object (e.g. a piece of paper for a blanket).

Sensory play

Set up play activities for your child that allows them to interact with different textures such as sand, rice, water and different materials. Talk about the way objects feel and look (e.g. soft, hard). Also engage your child in sensory play that involves movement (e.g. being lifted up in the air, swinging, rolling over a ball on their tummy).

Suggested play items to have available for children under 2:

Toy cars, dolls, teddy bears, soft toys, farm animals, spoon, cup, real objects like chairs and bed, sand pit with trucks, buckets, spades, blocks, toy or real furniture, box, plastic containers, musical instruments, junk items like cardboard boxes, shoe boxes, plastic containers, cardboard tubes, balls, bubbles.

Remember..play is the learning for young children so the more you play, the more they  master language, physical skills problem solving and social interaction.

Let us know your favourite games.

For more information on how you can help your child, book an appointment with our friendly Speech Therapists and Occupational Therapists on 1800 KIDSENSE.

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