Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Playing from the Start

It's true--when kids play, they learn. 

Think peek-a-boo, when infants start to learn that people exist even though gone from view. Think building blocks, where little ones begin some basic physics lessons on their own. Skip forward to the Alphabet Song, in which the fun of singing a rhyme makes all the difference in memorizing a sequence of 26 letters. These are just a few examples of the countless ways play is the way a child learns.

This blog is dedicated to sharing various ideas and resources to help us (the grown-ups) facilitate play as we teach our children.

But first, a word of caution. For play to truly be play, it must be voluntary to the child. Intrinsic motivation to play is essential. If we overly construct play, or impose it as mandatory, we lose the therapeutic nature of play. As adults, we can present playful activities and ideas. We can playfully invite, begin and even demonstrate activities. Ultimately, the child has the choice: to engage or not. The child may engage and then change our playful plans. We must sometimes abandon plan A, plan B, and even plan C, and simply follow the child's lead. These become opportunities for the child to teach us. When this happens, it's the best connection of all.

So, with the basic framework laid, let's get started!

We'll begin in a natural place: at the beginning. 👶This first section of posts will feature playful ideas and strategies to enjoy with baby even while in the womb or newborn. Here goes!

Won't you feel silly reading baby books to your baby while she's still inside you! Imagine that. You're sitting alone on a bench at the park, reading aloud to yourself, using your finest melodic tone of voice. They'll think you've gone batty! Who cares? Read with gusto, emotion and energy. Relish each word, each sensory experience and joy. Your baby is learning! The secret benefit--you'll feel better, too.

We know babies need swaddling. We know they need holding, feeding, and changing. We know they need us to interpret their stress signs so they get enough rest and time to adjust. When all the essentials are covered, they need play! This play activity helps baby develop body awareness, and supports auditory and tactile processing. You can do this activity while holding baby or when baby lays on the changing table, or even while you sit in front of baby and baby's resting in his cushion or infant seat.

Simply engage with baby, smiling and talking in your special style. Playfully teach baby the names of his basic body parts while you touch, tap or gently massage them. Risk being sing-song with your voice, perhaps singing the "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" song, but adjusted to baby's tolerance level for volume, rate and tone. Then swaddle him back up and give him a gentle squeeze while you rock him, perhaps continuing to hum the song for a bit.

The link for the above song takes you to an amazing resource you'll want to explore, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Here's their main page:
Kids Environment Kids Health

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN! In the comments section, please share your experiences, links and resources so we'll have plenty of learning play ideas for infancy. Remember to like and follow the blog, and share it with others! Together, we'll fill the world with happy, well-loved children, who grow into happy, well-adjusted adults. We can make a difference in the future, and THE WAY IS PLAY!

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