PLAY is the business of childhood, allowing your child free rein to experiment with the world around him and the emotional world inside him. This statement is from the book, Baby Signs: How to Talk With Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk.
While it may look like mere child’s play to you, there’s a lot of work — problem solving, skill building, overcoming physical and mental challenges — going on behind the scenes. Here are some of the things your child is experiencing and learning, along with ideas on how you can help boost the benefits of his play.
Play builds the imagination
Pretending, or imaginative play, is one of the cornerstones of a young child’s world. Kids begin demonstrating this behavior around the age of two. Almost anything can spur your child’s imagination, including everyday objects. This is because he uses them as symbols; he’s learning that one thing can stand for other things. Using his new ability to pretend, he can transform a block of wood into a boat, a few pots and pans into a drum set.
Everyday objects are not the only things that are transformed in your child’s make-believe world. So are the roles he assumes in his play. He’ll move from superhero to daddy to police officer with ease. Sometimes the stories he acts out reflect issues he’s struggling to understand. If he’s coming to terms with a new sibling, for example, he may incorporate a lot of nurturing behavior into his play, mimicking your interaction with his new brother or sister. Imaginative play gives your child a sense of control as he interprets the dramas of everyday life and practices the rules of social behavior.
How you can encourage imaginative play: Keep a box of everyday items that your child can use during pretend play. Kid versions of adult objects, such as play telephones and plastic dishes, help facilitate role-playing, and open-ended objects (toys that can have more than one use), such as coloured blocks, stretch the imagination with unlimited possibilities.