There are many different kinds of play: imaginative and pretend play, creative activities such as drawing, all sorts of games, and physical play, such as rolling a ball or dancing. Movement and play are good for children’s bodies and brains. Movement and play keep children healthy and build their coordination and strength. Children also explore and learn about the world through movement and play.
Each stage of development comes with new opportunities for learning. An infant might explore by touching, grasping, banging something, or crawling. A toddler might explore by walking or climbing. Young children are like scientists—curious and excited to learn about their surroundings. See where your child’s curiosity takes them, and build on their interests.
TIPS ON HOW TO EXPLORE THROUGH MOVEMENT AND PLAY
INFANTS (0-12 MONTHS OLD)
DO TUMMY TIME Give your infant regular “tummy time.” When they lift their head to look around, they strengthen the upper body and prepare muscles to crawl. They also get a new view of their surroundings!
PRACTICE REACHING Hold a toy over your infant’s head, or put one on the floor just beyond their reach. This will encourage your infant to reach and build coordination.
PLAY PEEK-A-BOO This game teaches infants that objects (and people) exist even when hidden. It’s also a fun way to bond with your child.
GIVE THINGS TO HANDLE Provide objects of different colors, shapes, and textures to play with. Handling objects helps with hand-eye coordination and motor skills. And you can use everyday objects. You don’t need fancy toys to keep your baby’s attention!
SUPPORT DISCOVERY Your infant discovers how the world works by experimenting. They also learn through repetition, so they might drop a spoon over and over to see what happens. Watch and encourage!
PLAY SEARCH AND FIND Put an object under a bucket or blanket and see if your child can find it.
LET THEM MOVE AROUND Let your child explore their surroundings by reaching, rolling, scooting, and crawling. This is good for coordination. It also strengthens their “mind’s eye” as they see things from new angles and sense where they are in space. Just make sure they are safe!
TODDLERS (12-36 MONTHS OLD)
FOLLOW THEM Toddlers learn a lot by experimenting on their own. If your child looks like they are concentrating on something, like pouring water in the bath or stacking blocks, stand back for a moment and let them problem-solve for themselves. This is exercise for their brain!
HELP THEM BUILD Use blocks to build a tower. How high can you go? What happens when you knock it over? What other shapes can you and your child build? You don’t need to buy blocks to do this. You can also use cardboard boxes or plastic cups.
MAKE ART Drawing is a good way to exercise little hands and be creative. Put out some crayons and paper. Your child can also experiment with tearing and folding the paper.
ROLL A BALL Roll a ball or a bottle back and forth to develop coordination and teach about cause and effect.
PLAY OBSTACLE COURSE Make a simple obstacle course. You can use blankets, pillows, or boxes. See if your child can go over, under, around, and through these objects.
PLAY HIDE AND SEEK Your child can hide behind the couch or under the table. Or, you can hide objects around the room. This is a great activity for developing their thinking skills.
USE POSITION WORDS In all of these activities, use words like “over, under, near, far, through,” and “around.”
TAKE A WALK Everything is new for young children, so an activity as simple as a walk around the block offers lots of opportunities for exploration. Stop and examine rocks, bugs, or plants. Talk about what you see.