The power of play

Sometimes play is messy, but it's always good for your child's development.
Sometimes play is messy, but it's always good for your child's development.

From day one, children are eager to explore and learn about how the world around them works. They do this through play, whether it is using tools and toys they already have, or using their imagination.

Play is extremely important for your child's development.

In the first three years, your child naturally learns to walk, speak and think of herself. Also, through all these interactions — whether they are with her environment, her parent, or other playmates — your child is able to learn more and thus, develop the skills she needs for later years.

Interaction and play is important to promote secure attachment, communication, and brain development. This stimulation in her early ages will provide her with the unique opportunities to enhance her growth.

So what sort of play is important for your child from 1 to 3 years of age? Here are some ideas to try out.

Playtime for 1 to 2 years old

This is the time when your child learns to communicate by making sounds, noises and eventually saying a few words. She is also mobile and is interested in exploring objects. Encourage this by giving her the freedom to explore, but make sure you are nearby to watch.

• Running, climbing, and action games

By now, your child has already discovered movement and is intrigued by it. She will start to roll over, crawl, sit up and eventually walk. Don't restrain her movement; by all means let her explore. Remember games like London Bridge or Ring Around the Rosie? Play this with your child to encourage her not only to move and explore but to sing as well. Once a week, bring your child to the nearest playground to run, climb and play with other children.

• Finger play
Young children love to make things work. They use their hands and fingers to explore their world, whether it is pushing buttons or opening boxes. Encourage this by introducing finger play to your child. Let her squeeze water out of a sponge, paint with her fingers, or play with dough. Join in the fun as well to teach your child and encourage her.

• Rhyming
When your child is able to imitate words and melodies, why not enjoy a sing-a-long together or read a book together? Rhyming words are important here to help your child learn new words as they are easier to learn when they sound similar. See if your child knows the next word in a song or a book before you say it.

Playtime for 2 to 3 years old

Older toddlers are eager for playmates, especially now that they know how to move and learn new things. This will be a good time to introduce a playgroup for your child if she is your only or first child, or to encourage your older child to play with the young one. This way, your toddler will develop essential social skills. Also, this is the time when your child uses her imagination. Encourage her to express herself creatively.

• Play pretend
Get your child and maybe a friend of hers to put on a short skit using household items. Or encourage her to make music with the same items. The idea is to let your child express her creativity and to use her imagination to do what's different.

• Quiet play
It doesn't always have to be full of action. Sometimes, quiet play can help with your child's development as well. Whether it is looking at books, listening to stories or drawing — all these can help build your child's imagination and language skills. Also, provide art supplies to let your child create with her hands too.

• Musical play
Play fun musical games with your child. Say freeze when she is dancing, or any other action to encourage movement as well as understand instruction. Also, include musical instruments to the fun. You can make your own or use things like tambourines and toy drums. Invite a friend over too for more fun. Your child can also learn new skills by watching other children.

The thing to remember when playing with your child? Anything goes! Be creative and try to do something new so your child doesn't get bored. Also, play safe. Always be near your child, especially those of a younger age, to make sure she stays out of harm's way. And follow the leader, who is your child in this situation. Watch and wait for her lead to see what excites and interests her.