Playtime is absolutely necessary for a child and toys play a very important role in the development of a child. Playtime aids in learning and healthy growth of the baby by encouraging exploration and right kind of toys can be a great help in this regard.
Your baby learns by playing with toys and everyday stuff, whether it is by banging all the boxes and bottles she can lay her hands on or trying to shake everything to see if it makes noise similar to the previous item and different or when she throws things down from the high-chair to listen to the sound. Children in different ages play, explore and learn in a variety of ways.
How Babies play ?
Your newborn remains quite still for a few weeks after birth, sleeping most of the time and waking in between only to feed. She likes being swaddled because it reminds her of the safety of the mother’s womb. During the waking hours, baby observes your face and try becoming accustomed to the surroundings.
Baby’s vision in first few months is not fully developed and playing at this stage is parent’s prerogative and as you show the baby around the house, cuddle her, nurse her or talk and sing to her, she learns to trust and depend on you and family.
Babies this age enjoy watching a cot mobile for long times as it revolves and play music.
As time passes, and baby’s limbs start straightening out , you will see your 1 month old lying on back and moving legs up and down. This is the beginning of physical play and her way of exercising her arms and legs. This builds strength in the limbs and prepares them for bigger challenges ahead. When on tummy, she will try to raise her head and chest building strength in their neck and back muscles.
Tummy time is essential for a baby to exercise and strengthen her neck, back and limbs. Parents and caregivers can make it more fun by introducing interesting toys like play mats, mirrors, mobiles etc. Babies who do not get enough tummy time are sometimes late in achieving milestones like sitting and crawling.
Touching , mouthing, banging, throwing and pushing is a favourite way of playing for babies in six to twelve months age-group.
Social plays which also involve other people, like peekaboo, are also a favourite.
How Toddlers play ?
1 -2 years old
Toddlerhood is the wonderful stage when your baby becomes more and more independent and dependent on you at the same time. You will see the beginning (if not already begun) of stranger anxiety and separation anxiety. On the other hand, a toddler wants to put to use newly acquired skills like crawling and walking and does not like too much help from you. Your baby is becoming an individual.
Babies this age need some assistance while playing. Once you show them how a particular toy works, they can take over and try themselves. Board books can be great fun for them as they enjoy pictures and try to relate them to things around them.
Push-toys can help the toddler in walking by giving minimum support. Pull-toys are great for a baby who is proficient in walking. Rockers, stacking cups and rings and shape-sorters are good toys for this age-group. You should show your baby how a toy works, but then take a back-seat and let her explore on her own. Don’t try to intervene too much. At the same time, always keep an eye on her. Good toys are ones which do something and teach the baby something rather than just looking cute.
2-4 years old
Kids till 2 years like to watch others but would prefer playing by themselves. As toddlers grow, they become more aware of other kids and would want their company.
Role play and imitation is very common in this age and only goes to show how much they are imbibing from their surroundings. You will soon find your baby serving tea or cooking or shaving like father.
Babies this age start taking control of their play-time and soon you will become a mere participant in the game that your baby wants to play.
Playhouses, kitchen sets, scribble board, small cars ,trucks, ride-ons, musical instruments like xylophone, guitar etc are good for kids in this age-group.
You will also see start of symbolic play, which means your baby will take an empty shoe box and drag it around as a car or pieces of paper will become bread/ chapatis.
Parents need to be a part of their children’s playtime at young age. Your child depends on you in more ways than one and spending time with him/her will not only make him/her a happy child now but also help in building self-esteem and confidence for life. Some parents just give their babies a lot of toys and assume baby will be able to entertain oneself. Reading or telling stories can be very enjoyable for both you and the baby. It also builds language skills.
Another important thing to remember is to let the baby take the lead. Do not expect baby to play just because you want her to. Stop whenever you feel baby is getting tired or cranky.