Since this is my first ever post (yikes!), I have decided to write about why I think play is so important. So here are my Ten Reasons to Play With Your Baby:
1. It makes her happy
If you are a parent reading this post, you probably thought to yourself just then: “Why on earth do I need to hear reasons to play with my baby? I love her and it makes her happy to play and be played with!” Of course you are right, and that is why this is my first and – ultimately – most important reason.
If making our babies smile were the one and only reason for us to play with our babies, that would be quite enough for me. But, luckily, for all us play-lovers, there are many other reasons that purposeful play benefits your baby.
Here are the other nine in my top ten:
2. It increases her concentration
Playing any game with your baby engages her. Without you there, she quickly loses purpose, and therefore interest. But when you are there to respond and react positively to what she is doing (whatever that is), she is motivated to repeat what she is doing and so concentrates for a longer time.
I’ve seen this in action, only today. My husband and I had been playing various games with T and for a few minutes we stopped for a coffee and just observed what he did. He went towards his walker toy, pressed a few buttons, then moved along to the TV cabinet, tried to open the cupboard unsuccessfully, then had a go pulling on some wires. Then he rotated on his bottom and repeated the exact same aimless activities. He just seemed a bit lost, and lacking in direction.
This happened again a bit later, when he was left to his own devices. I am not saying that there is no place for independent play – quite the opposite in fact. Independent play is extremely important for babies and children. (And I will be writing more on this very soon – watch this space!)
I am just trying to get across how an adult play companion can really help focus a baby in her play and develop her concentration skills.
3. It extends her vocabulary
I love this one – because I LOVE words. I don’t think there is any limit to how many words you use around your baby – the more she hears, the more she will be absorbing. I also find it a bit scary, though, because it seems to be such a big responsibility – to be the sole person enriching her vocabulary. Having said that, pretty much everything about being a parent is challenging…I am beginning to get used to that!
Still, what’s wonderful is that EVERY time you play with your baby, there is an opportunity to widen her vocabulary, by asking questions such as “can you topple the tower?”, “can you throw the ball?” etc., by pointing to and naming objects that you are playing with, and just by describing everything that you are doing.
4. It teaches her Maths
When you stop and think about how you play with your baby, you realise just how many mathematical concepts you are introducing her to. For example:
“Shall we put one more block on the tower?” – concept of more, one and very basic addition
Singing maths songs – names of numbers 1-5, order of numbers 1-5 or 1-10 and concept of subtraction
(my Top Five Counting Songs for Babies is coming soon!)
“Lets play with the big/small ball!” – concept of size
“Can you put the square shape into the square hole?” – concept of shape
These are obviously just a few examples and, as T gets older, I know we will find many more maths concepts to explore through play.
5. It builds her self-esteem
This is what drives children when they get to school and it can really make such a difference to how well they perform at school and with their friends.
When your baby plays a game with you, she is getting TONS of positive feedback for her little achievements. The best kind of feedback to really build her confidence in her abilities is POSITIVE and SPECIFIC – for example: “That’s good throwing/eating/crawling/standing etc. – well done! (thumbs up or whatever sign you like to use!). That way, the baby is learning from you exactly what behaviour you are looking for and she will keep doing it to get your thumbs up/big grin/applause/high five.
So all this positive feedback from you helps your baby to feel loved, valued and respected for achieving things. And this starts to build her self-esteem. Amazing!
If you want to read more on this subject, there’s a good article on kidshealth.org explaining what self-esteem is, and how adults can help build a child’s self-esteem. Interesting reading.
6. It develops her fine and gross motor skills
Just in case you aren’t aware (although I find this unlikely as we parents are greedy for any development information!!), in a nutshell: fine motor skills are small, refined movements with your hands; and gross motor skills are big movements with your limbs and whole body.
So you can see how play develops both of these skills – every time your baby picks small things up (breadsticks, a rattle, the pages of a book etc) and handles them, she is strengthening those finger muscles and becoming more and more dextrous.
And every time she is given tummy time, floor time, time in a walker or bouncer, she is getting the chance to improve his gross motor skills.
The brilliant thing is, that really you don’t need to do any more than encourage her in this area. The best way for babies to develop physical skills is to have the opportunities to practise them.
I will be writing lots on the best toys and games I’ve found for this soon.
7. It improves her communication skills
Obviously! To play a game with you – for example, a turn-taking game such as ‘Catch!’ – your baby needs to listen to you, watch you, make eye contact with you and respond to your words and actions. These are all valuable communication skills she is learning to use that she will need to have successful relationships now and in the future. You are her role model for how to interact with people and, as you play with her, she mirrors you. Brilliant.
8. It helps her understand the world
The more she plays, the more your baby begins to understand how things work in the world. When she drops a ball onto the ground and notices it bounces, then drops a feather and watches it float down slowly, she notices the difference. When she puts different objects into her mouth, or touches surfaces on the floors in her house, she is noticing the difference. When she picks up a puppet and tries to make the animal sound, she has made a connection with the animal and it’s sound. I could go on, but I’d be here forever!
Essentially, play is vital for your baby to make sense of her world. The more varied her play experiences are, the more she will learn and begin to understand.
9. It develops her imagination
A ball. A cup. A feather. It is amazing how many ways a baby can find to play with just one simple object.
Providing your baby with opportunities for unstructured, open-ended play with one or two objects can really kick-start her imaginative pathways (which are still being formed).
Raising Children Network (the Australian parenting website) has a very general list of what sort of things you might do with your baby to develop his imagination. The site is mostly for advice on playing with older kids, but there is a little list of suggestions for babies under two here, and it also explains a bit about what sort of objects are best for creative play:
I will be writing lots on this in future, and sharing any imaginative games we have enjoyed playing together.
10. It’s FUN
Perhaps this is actually the same as my number one reason. But fun and happiness are really what we are all striving for, so I am happy for it to appear twice in my list! Who doesn’t like having fun? We are all only on this earth for a short time and – to me at least – it makes sense to have fun where we can. Even if you are miserable old so-and-so (which I doubt you are, if you are reading a blog about play), you can probably at the very least agree that you want your baby to be happy.
And having pleasant experiences with your baby will give her happy memories, a happy childhood, and will set her up to have a happy life. And I don’t think there is any one reading this who doesn’t want that for their child!
If you enjoyed reading this post, check out the blogs I follow – there should be a link to them on my sidebar. They are SO inspiring: I am totally in love with them, and I bet you will be too!
- Fine and Gross Motor Skills- Infants (theeducatednannyblog.com)
- Physical Development – Fine Motor Skills – What Parents Can do to Help (roomtogrow.co.uk)
- Ten Fun Games To Play With Your Baby (playitagainmummy.wordpress.com)