The Importance of Play in Infants and Toddlers
Play is Learning
Play is one of the most important activities of childhood. Play develops children’s skills and helps them make sense of their world. Through play, they learn social and emotional skills, identity and communication skills and problem-solving skills needed for future development.
An environment enriched with play, sensory play, and play toys provide the perfect life experiences to help with childhood development. Play is the active expression of learning and promotes brain development in many ways, including giving the child a better understanding of their world and how they fit in it.
Major benefits of play include the potential for children to work on both gross and fine motor skills, and to grow into confident individuals who thrive in their environment.
Five Benefits of Play
One: Play is physically healthy. It allows children to develop muscles, balance, eye-hand coordination, and is a calorie burning activity that can help keep them fit and active.
Two: Play increases happiness. When children play it helps them grow emotionally, providing an outlet for energy and reducing stress.
Three: Play is learning. For toddlers from 0 to 3 years-old, firsthand experience in interacting with the world and learning about it has a name; it’s called play!
Four: Play is motivational. It naturally stimulates and supports children in language acquisition, communication, and concentration.
Five: Play improves IQ. A study by the University of Arkansas showed that when infants engage in regular play with toys, it leads to a higher IQ by age three.
Play is Social
Whether playing with parents or with other children, the interaction involved in play helps children explore their feelings, learn how to express themselves, work out emotional challenges, and share their experiences.
Play helps parents and children connect, but one key idea is to avoid directing the child’s activities. Play is all about the child and their freedom to make choices in what engages their interest and sparks their joy in playful activity. Through play, children challenge themselves, learn to deal with risk, and find their own limitations.
At play, children are in control of what they do and how they do it. They decide whether a particular activity will be fun or not, putting their imaginations to use while exploring the world around them.
When Play Reveals Developmental Problems
All children develop in their own way and in their own time. A child lagging a little behind their peers in crawling, standing, walking, or talking may not be a reason for concern. Challenges in reaching milestones with regard to language, thinking, social, and motor skills are called developmental delays. Sometimes a particular stage of development may be so delayed that the help of a pediatrician and/or therapeutic specialist is needed.
What signs of developmental delay can play reveal? Sometimes, a child’s interactions in play or attempts to play can provide developmental warning signs. A few of these include:
- Poor attention, jumping from one thing to the next without stopping to play.
- Play interests are narrow and highly repetitive.
- Easily upset and upends, knocks toys around.
- Unaware of the feelings of others, difficulty regulating emotions.
- Always requires parental or adult interaction.
- Only plays alone.
No one event or developmental difficulty should cause overconcern. However, if patterns develop and any troubling activity seems stubbornly set in your child’s behavior, it may be time to seek help and evaluation.
Early Intervention Therapies
If your child seems to have a developmental delay, there is a great deal of help and many resources you can call upon. Ask your pediatrician about Early Intervention therapies from TEIS Early Intervention.
At TEIS Early Intervention, our therapists listen to your concerns, assess your child’s individual needs, develop a customized treatment plan, and educate you along the way on simple routine-based solutions to maximize your child’s development in their natural environment.
Early Intervention evaluations and therapy services are available under the Federal Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities. Before services can be provided, an independent evaluation of your child must be completed. To assure impartiality, one agency offers evaluation services while another provides the therapeutic services
To learn more, call TEIS Early Intervention at 412-271-8347 or visit our Contact Us page to get help today.