The all-important benefits of play in the toddler years

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From emotional growth to brain and skills development, play shapes your child in his early years more deeply than you might have imagined.

For your toddler, play is everything, and rightly so. In recognition of this, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child states that “play” is the right of all children. The importance of play in the early years cannot be understated and is something that every parent is familiar with. But what you may not know is how deeply play benefits the development of your child – especially for toddlers. 

Play starts in a child's infancy. As your child moves into the toddler years, play shapes your little one in fundamental ways. Independence, creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving – it is through play that children start to exercise these key skills.

What’s more, the benefits of play go beyond what we all expect. It is also through play that children begin to explore feelings and values and develop social skills.

Here are top five reasons why play is important in the early years:

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  1. Play encourages secure attachments 

Playing builds bonds.It is through play that children begin to foster secure attachments to their peers, educators, family members – and you. When children play, they feel safe, secure, and supported. This, in turn, has a positive impact on their happiness and self-esteem.

According to researcher Jaak Panksepp at Washington State University, “the function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways."

What this means to you as a parent is simple. If you want your toddler to be close to you, there is little that you have to do except play with them. Get on the floor, get elbow-deep in toys, and just have fun, mums and dads!

  1. Play impacts cognitive development 

Every parent is concerned about their toddler’s healthy brain development. More than special classes, it is through play that children at an early age engage and interact with the world around them.

You don’t have to invest in fancy toys either. There have been numerous studies that show that spending time in nature (playing in unstructured settings) is essential for cognitive development. This kind of play stimulates creativity and problem-solving skills integral to executive function development.

  1. It affects speech and language development 

Children’s brains are like sponges: they absorb everything. During play, children learn a lot of things: They are constantly watching, listening, exploring and imitating each other or whoever they are playing with. After a playdate, don’t be surprised if you hear your toddler using new words or phrases – even if they have no idea what they mean yet!

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  1. It affects their behavioural development 

Curious about where a child’s behaviour comes from? The answer, once again, is play.

When kids play, they learn all kinds of skills: how to concentrate on a task, how to take turns and how to share. Similarly, during play, children learn leadership skills by directing the action or by following a leader.

So if you want your child to be well-behaved and polite, the answer could be teaching them these things through play. Similarly, if you see your little one as a future leader, then play will set the all-important foundation for development in this aspect, too.

  1. Play leads to being better adjusted at school

Parents are often concerned about how well their child will do at school. But we often fail to realise that during these early years, learning time and playtime are one and the same.

When children learn through play, they develop a love for learning. Children view learning through play as something enjoyable, rather than a chore. Keep learning fun, and this will have a positive effect in their school years.

Mums and dads, clearly, play is a cherished part of childhood. Your involvement not only benefits your child, but it can be great for you too: It is a great stress buster and it strengthens your bond with each other. Play opens doors for the sharing of values. And it helps create countless teachable moments in life!

Knowing all of this, make it a point to create time every day to play with your toddler. Go on playdates, explore the outdoors, spend time at the playground, and play with your little one in both structured and unstructured environments.

Want more play ideas? Why not actually have a great play time with your kids?

Come and join us at Suntec City East Atrium from 12-18 November at one of the largest playdates ever, Friso Super Play Date!

Admission is free!

REGISTER NOW to redeem a Goodie Bag worth $150! Whilst Stocks Last* One registration per family*

If you’re looking for more ideas for play dates with your child, check them out here

Friso believes experience is the child’s best teacher. The more they experience, the more they develop. Children learn best when they get to experience something first-hand. Find out how you can give your child more learning experiences as they grow with these articles and resources from Friso at https://www.friso.com.sg/en/learning-and-experiences

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