While buying toys or games for our little one is important, nothing beats getting down and playing with them. Through play, children develop physically, discover a range of emotional skills and work through how to process the world. Put simply, children learn through play.
1. Play helps them develop critical thinking skills
Imaginative play fosters mental growth by creating opportunities for trying out new ideas, ways of thinking and problem-solving. Whether it’s stacking blocks on top of each other or learning to walk, play allows them to learn in a safe environment. Children can develop a range of cognitive skills through play, including problem solving, utilising imagination and creativity. With your little one consciously working to develop a solution or as a natural consequence of play, they learn first-hand what does and doesn’t work.
2. Play helps them develop their interests, and encourages expression of views and experiences
By playing with various objects, your little one will discover what interests them most. For one child, it could be outdoor play in a sandpit, for another it could be acting like an astronaut ready to head into space. Each one has their merits and you can help them develop skills or their interests, whether it is counting or awareness of sound. Some may become lifelong interests while some will fall by the wayside. It is an effective way for children to express safely, both to their parents and to themselves, what they are feeling. Even when
their language may not be at the level to articulate their fears and opinions, the type of free play they engage in will speak volumes.
3. It teaches them to explore and appreciate the world around them
Play not only extends their imagination and creative talent, it lets them learn about the real world around them as well. For instance, they can learn about colours just by playing outside. Playing outside can allow children to develop a greater respect of mother nature. Play provides a great framework for them to learn about the environment. In addition, showing enthusiasm and expressing curiosity in characters and storylines in books, is a great way to pique your child’s interest in the world.
4. Play encourages the development of their five senses
Play that stimulates a child’s sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight, movement and balance teaches them how to process what they experience through their senses. Budding senses will help them better connect with you and the world around them. Sensory activities don’t need to be fancy, and whilst often they involve messy play, sensory tables and tubs can reduce indoor mess.
5. Play fuels physical growth
Active play is just as good for your little one’s physical development as it is for their motor skills and builds upper and lower body strength. It helps your child hone their coordination, balance, gross-motor skills and fine-motor skills. As a bonus, active play helps children use up their natural stores of energy and promotes better eating and sleeping habits.
Four exercises you can do with your baby
by Registered Infant Nurse, Robyn Brennan
Make movement a priority while spending quality time with your little one by engaging in these four effective activities:
You may be advised against jumping right into a high intensity fitness routine, but don’t let that stop you from moving. Secure your baby safely in your stroller and hit the road – a front carrier can help and the extra weight will boost your workout. Alternatively, mum’s could try a stroller-based class as it is the perfect way for new mums to incorporate their children into their healthy lifestyle, as well connect with other mums.
Put on some peppy music and dance along with your baby to add a lot of fun to your play time. Dancing is an ideal light cardiovascular exercise for new mums, as it targets all of the body’s major muscle groups, improves balance and elevates your mood. To add to it, dancing improves the muscle coordination in babies and is proven to keep them happy.
3. Strength training
Activate your muscles by performing a modified weight-training routine, however, the repetitions and number of sets may vary by person. Doing high-intensity workouts before your body is ready can be more harmful than helpful when you’re newly postpartum. Instead, focus on strength training, using your baby as resistance. Hug your little one as you squat and return to a standing position.
Sit in a supportive chair, hold your baby underneath his or her armpits, and press your arms above your head before returning him or her to your lap. Lay on your back, sit your baby on your abdomen and grab both of his or her hands before performing a set of hip thrusts.
Alternate the strength training exercises as your fitness improves and your baby grows.
Not all yoga is postnatal appropriate, but typically gentle varieties, such as yin yoga and restorative yoga are good options. Incorporating yoga into your weekly routine helps the recovery process when it comes to a weakened pelvic floor, tight hips, sore shoulders or neck, lack of endurance, and over-stretched abdominal muscles. Place your baby on his or her back on a yoga mat, and begin a yoga sequence that will allow you to slowly transition from one position to the next.
Crawling: type of crawls and why it’s important
by Registered Infant Nurse, Robyn Brennan
Watching your baby learn to crawl and move around independently is one of the most important milestones that your little one will reach early in their life. Around 7-10 months, most babies are experts in the hand-and-knee crawling method, but others develop alternative styles of crawling that work so well for them that they never progress to the traditional crawling.
How does crawling affect child development?
Research has shown that baby crawling increases hand-eye coordination, gross, and fine motor skills, balance and overall strength. There are two main types of baby crawling: belly crawling and hands & knees crawling. Unlike belly crawling, which relies on the coordination of the same-side leg and arm when fully mastered, hands & knees require coordination of opposite-side limbs. Also, called contra-lateral, this diagonal style of movement is vital in the development of an important pathway in the brain that helps support cognitive function, problem solving and ease of learning.
No matter what method your bub adopts, remember that the important thing is that they are showing a desire to move around independently and explore their surroundings. Here are some of the wider types of crawling your baby can adopt:
1. The Commando Crawl / Belly Crawl
Several babies begin crawling by keeping their tummy against the floor as they move. Commando crawlers tend to begin crawling earlier than four-on-the-floor crawlers as they don’t use the strength and balance required to get up on their hands and knees. It’s worth clothing your baby in thick fabric clothes if this is their preference to prevent their skin from getting hurt.
2. The Classic Crawl
This type of crawling involves the baby alternating arms and legs, getting the arm on one side to hit the floor at the same time as the leg on the opposite side.
3. The Bear Crawl
The ‘Bear Crawl’ may look similar to the ‘Classic Crawl’, but in this case, the baby walks on all fours, arms and legs unbent, walking on hands and feet like a bear.
4. The Crab Crawl
The baby will move backwards or sideways like a crab, propelling themselves with their hands. This type of crawling generally occurs when your baby is just learning how to crawl and often doesn’t last longer than a week or two.
5. The Leapfrog Crawl
With this crawl, the baby makes a bridge with their arms and legs and then thrusts forward.
6. The Roll
With ‘The Roll,’ your baby may rock back and forth until they get the hang of forward motion. Some babies get so good at rolling that it becomes their primary way to get around.