Play is vital for a baby’s development and learning; and we are only now realizing why and how vital it is.
When a six month old reaches for an object, looks at it and plays with it by transferring it from one to another hand, putting it in the mouth and so on, this is a very significant development milestone. Consider the many uses of play –
- Play is a way for a baby to observe and explore the world around. Play is the first step to learning since it is with play that a baby first starts to manipulate objects, find out what they are used for and starts to enjoy them.
- Play will help a child in developing valuable social and communication skills and other skills to survive in the world.
- Problem solving and creativity are also nurtured by play, since play can stimulate the imagination, encouraging the baby to think in new and interesting ways.
- Play can expand a child’s intelligence because it can challenge and make the baby think, and since this is a pleasurable activity, it reinforces itself, making the baby want to play. Brain and muscle development are significantly aided by play.
- An infant loves that game of Peek-a-boo, and will use it to work through certain negative feelings such as separation anxiety, that may be experienced typically at 9 months’ age. Watch the delight in that little face as mommy or daddy’s face reemerges from the blanket with a smile and a peek-a-boo.
- Play can help a child develop a positive attitude to play, and even help foster self confidence, and self reliance.
- While unstructured play time when the baby plays alone is important, perhaps the play that involves a beloved adult may be even more so. Play time is bonding time for baby and parent or caregiver. It is time that is hugely enjoyable and cherished not only by the adult but also by the baby. It is the expression and exchange of love and affection; a time when the adult imparts valuable learning in informal and non-deliberate settings.
For these and other reasons it is important for parents not only to provide opportunities for play, but also to make the time and effort to engage in the hugely enjoyable and fulfilling task of playing with the baby.