Yeah. I did it. I own it.
I started my blogging adventure with a shameless salute to Taylor Swift. In my defense, I do have a teenage daughter who’s an unabashed Swifty (and a husband who’s less likely to admit it out loud). So, she’s on regular rotation in my house.
All kidding aside, it’s true: Babies like to play. But, when it comes to the importance of play, that’s where we split from our pop princess. We can’t just shake it off. Play matters.
“Why does play matter,” you ask, “it’s just…well…playing?”
Play matters, because play is the primary vehicle for child development, especially in the first three years of life. For a small child, it’s hard to overstate the positive impact of play on cognitive, emotional, and social development. Psychologists have been studying this concept for decades.
I’m a Developmental Interventionist who works with kids under three years-old who are experiencing developmental delays. Sadly, in my work, I’ve seen the negative effect a lack of play has. From children who began their childhood in understaffed orphanages to those suffering from prenatal drug exposure or neglect all have an increased risk of being developmentally delayed. On a positive note, I’ve seen those same children thrive when they are put in a loving home with positive interactions – a key component of that interaction is play.
Not So Gray Matters
Did you know the human brain starts developing just three weeks after conception? Brain development continues throughout our lives, but no time is as impactive as the first three years of life. By her first birthday, a baby’s brain will double in size and her synapses — the connections between her brain cells — grow at a faster rate than any other time in her life.
Whether this is new to you or something you already knew, I imagine you’re either cursing me for giving you one more thing to worry about or cursing yourself for not spending enough time playing with your child. If so, remember, we’re talking about PLAY. We’re talking about fun. You can do this!
Keep it Simple
Put away the tablets, educational apps and DVDs that promise your baby will be way ahead of all the other kids. Turn off the television altogether. Silence the loud, flashing toys! They overstimulate you, why wouldn’t they do the same to your baby?
I’ve been there. I have four kids. I bought those things (or got them from some well-meaning friend or family member). I used them. So, I get it. I know your deep desire is to keep your child on target developmentally. It’s hard to wade through the advertisements and advice given by friends.
Because fun is fundamental to the human experience; because play is a vehicle for interpersonal interaction; because I want you to experience these things for yourself and your little one, I want to present you with alternatives to all the sound, lights, and the next big fad. I want to introduce you to the ideas and activities I use my early intervention practice. Ideas I use interactively. Everyday. Successfully. Using easy to find, developmentally appropriate toys and activities.
The title says it all: When you engage your child in play, learning happens: We Play. I Learn.
Now off for a little dance party with my fam. I’m thinking Taylor’s on tonight’s playlist…