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The Telegram
  • Family Matters: Playing with toys helps children learn

  • Do you ever watch your child play and wonder what he’s thinking or learning while playing?

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  • Do you ever watch your child play and wonder what he’s thinking or learning while playing?
    Children’s play is their work. They learn about how things function as they experiment by shaking, pushing or turning. Some play should be directed, so children have a sense of what they can safely explore.
    I have worked with several parents who have said that they don’t want to play with their kids because they are too busy. It’s easy to get caught up in adult life and daily responsibilities, but guided play provides parents the opportunity to instill family values with information that becomes the scaffolding for future learning.
    A PLAYGROUND AS A CLASSROOM
    I spoke with a mom who said her 21⁄2 -year-old son is very bad. He tears up the house all the time and never listens. She said he has a whole room filled with toys, but some are broken because he steps on them or throws them. She directs him to pick up his toys and he refuses, so she punishes him by keeping him inside. What mom doesn’t realize is that a playground is the equivalent to a child’s classroom.
    AN ORGANIZED PLAY SPACE
    As far as the playroom goes, a child cannot explore, learn or properly use toys that are strewn about. When toys are purchased, they should be carefully explored together. Toys should be gathered according to category, like cars put together, blocks in a bin, books on a shelf, and art supplies in a colorful box. This mom had no understanding of her young child’s developmental capabilities. Children under three are just beginning to learn organizational and sorting skills, and are encouraged with prompts, redirection and modeling.
    IT'S JUST CHILD'S PLAY
    Play is a fun way to learn. It teaches through trial and error. Imagination is stirred, and investigation occurs. Playing house or dress up helps children learn about adult roles. We can learn a great deal about ourselves while watching a young child play house and pretend to be mommy or daddy. Listen closely. When interactive play occurs with siblings or a friend, social skills are required to negotiate which game to play or whose turn is first.
    PLAY WITH ME
    One of the moms I work with said she really doesn’t know how to play with her daughter. Over the years, several other moms have mentioned the same sentiment. I suggest they pull up a chair and say what they see. When you say what you see, you communicate that your child is important through your presence and participation. Question if dolly is happy or hungry. Say that you see a big stack of colored blocks, and name those colors. Place masking tape on the floor for a roadway or a balance beam. Just go play!
    Page 2 of 2 - Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting coach who lives in Stark County, Ohio. She is author of “Parenting with a Purpose.” Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.

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