Play is vitally important for babies and children, as it helps them learn and gain understanding, but how often should they play?
For babies and toddlers, it’s through play that they learn about the world and about the abilities and skills they have. They’re able to explore their surroundings and the objects around them and learn that they’re an individual. Children go through various different stages of play, from playing as an infant and toddler, to pre-school play and play once they’ve started school. Each of these stages teaches them valuable skills, which help with their early childhood education and development.
The issue of how often children should play is difficult to answer. In the early stages, for babies and toddlers, much of their time will involve play. Parents and carers will play with during the day, they’ll be play involved in bath time and feeding, and events and days out will involve play.
Pre-school age children learn and play in different ways, but there’s still a good chunk of play involved in their daily life too. From the age of three years old, when children become pre-schoolers, they’re developing and advancing with their learning at quite a rapid pace. Play during this age group is just as important – if not more so – as they’re developing socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually.
Incorporating Play Into Your Child’s Day
As a parent, you can ensure your child gets plenty of play by making sure it’s incorporated into the day as much as possible.
In the case of babies and toddlers, this means making sure their days are fun and enjoyable and that they’ve got opportunities for learning as much as possible, and it’s a similar case for pre-school children.
But it’s sometimes hard for parents, especially if they’re trying to juggle work, childcare and other siblings, to manage lots of fun activities all the time. That’s why childcare, playgroups, nurseries, children’s classes and children’s centres can play a vital role too, as they are fully geared up to providing care and play activities for children – on many levels – and can take a bit of stress away from you.
Some children’s classes that are geared towards particular activities, such as physical play, gymnastics, arts and crafts, music or ballet are good for children who are developing interests in particular areas.
With older children who have reached school age, it’s often more a case of trying to get them to do anything else other than play! It can be a bit of a shock to the system to have to go to school and conform to the structure of the day and, although plenty of fun and playful activities are included in the day, they’ll no doubt want to play with their own toys or friends when they get home again after school.
Having time to play on their own will help them unwind and relax and it’s good to incorporate fun activities into the weekends as well. Like pre-schoolers, school age children enjoy clubs, classes and groups too and these can provide extra variety and hone additional skills and experiences.
The main thing to remember with young children is that play isn’t about time wasting – it’s about learning. So it should be included in their day and enjoyed as much as possible.