We all know that unstructured play is important for our kids. But do you know why? Or how to foster it? Here’s a look at how activities like game play or throwing a dance party in your kitchen positively effect your child’s social, emotional and cognitive growth. A quick primer for brain science of play.
Games: Games like Simon Says help children learn to follow rules, maintain self-control, take turns and think strategically. That toddler who keeps having meltdowns on you? Playing Simon Says will help alleviate that. Game play through apps and online games can also develop these skills and help toddlers and preschoolers understand concepts like cause and effect. (i.e. Your tot presses a key and Sammy ‘wakes up’ in Wake Up Sammy, or Horatio the Hippo appears in Peek-a-Bouncer. Didn’t take very long for them to pick that up, right?)
Dance Party: Music encourages non-verbal reasoning and sharpens the perception of language. Dance strengthens bones and joints and is just plain good exercise. So turn on the radio and get your groove on.
Let’s Pretend: Hand your child one of your reusable grocery bags and have them set-up a ‘store’ in your house. Let them use their imagination and role play — take turns being the customer and being the store manager. When children follow rules in make believe play, young children learn persistence, task mastery, social cooperation and moral maturity.
Get Out the Blocks: The child who builds a huge tower of Legos only to send it crashing to the floor in one hurricane-like movement, sending blocks flying across the room? Yepp. They’re learning. Block play and construction activities let kids sort and classify objects based on shape and engage in estimation and measurement — all while developing their problem solving skills.
Story Telling: Telling stories with your child — and asking them to come up with “what happens next” is not only a good way to develop their imagination, it’s helps introduce concepts of emotion and strengthen parent-child communication. You’ll notice that KneeBouncer games and apps have story lines that are open to imaginative interpretation. Take Lights Out, for instance. The lights go out and KneeBouncer characters end up…. on a pirate ship. Or bouncing on the bed. Ask your child: What happens when the lights go out? Go beyond the scenes in the game and take the story ‘off line.’ What happens next? How do the KneeBouncers feel when they end up on the pirate ship? Or wherever your child says they are?
Have you and your child played today?This post is part of KneeBouncers’ new Bounce, Play, Learn! Initiative- Promoting the Importance of Play! Information for this article was adapted from Let the Playvolution Begin!, developed by Ultimate Block Party, and Teaching English, a project of the BBC. Ultimate Block Party is a non-profit organization that brings the play to cities around North America. Check out their parent resource page for more tips!