Choosing toys and activities
What toys and books should I be giving my child? The important thing is to provide a range of different books and toys. Some of these may be designed for younger children and some for older, but your child will play with these in their own way.Don’t worry about the suggested age range on the product. If your child enjoys it, is stimulated by it, and it’s safe, then play with it!
Provide resources that are linked to your child’s interests
You will know your child better than anyone. Make sure that they have a range of toys, books and magazines that they are interested in. This will change and develop over time, but don’t worry about returning to their old favourites. Repetition helps learning.If you feel that the play is becoming overly repetitive, then suggest a small change and wait for your child to follow. So, if they are always pouring cups of tea for the doll, then ask for a cup for yourself or introduce a toy animal who might like tea or a piece of cake.Let your child look at suitable magazines linked to your work, e.g. hairdressing or cars. Talk together about the pictures, and this may lead to pretending to be a hairdresser or a mechanic. Go with your child and enjoy!Imagination develops as your child explores and grows. Encourage pretend play where a box can be a spaceship, a car, a house, in fact anything!
Provide a range of toys and activities
It is important, where possible, to provide a range of different toys and experiences for your child. This doesn’t mean spending a lot of money. Toys can be passed among friends. Social media sites and charity shops offer good value for money and libraries sometimes supply toys as well as books.Try to think ‘outside the box’, away from gender-specific toys. In particular, boys need to be encouraged to play with a variety of large and small ‘dolls’. These may be actual dollies or they may be toys like Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam, etc.This is important because as young children play with the dolls by feeding them, putting them to bed, pushing them in buggies, etc., they learn that the ‘doll’ represents a person. This is a very important stage in development. This shows the child is ready to understand that a word can represent an object too.In Early Years settings all children benefit from this type of play, so it is important to encourage it at home too.
How should I be playing with my child?
This is the more important question. It’s not only what you do but how you do it.
Top Tips for playing with your child
a) Put away your phone and give yourself 10 minutes to play …
b) Watch what your child likes to play with and then join them in their play.
c) Follow your child’s lead, but ensure the game is safe and don’t allow it to get out of control.
d) Comment on what they are doing. For example: ‘You’re pushing the car along the mat.’ … ‘It’s a red car.’ … ‘I wonder where it’s going?’ Use short sentences and don’t overload with chat.
e) Use the adult–child interaction strategies of waiting, listening and responding. See Interacting with your child.
f) Give your child plenty of time. Don’t rush. Watch and listen.
g) Repeat back what your child says but add a few extra words. For example, if your child says, ‘Teddy sleep’, say ‘The teddy sleeps in his bed’. For more information on how to respond, see Encouraging talking.
h) For advice on how to spend quality time with your child, see Creating Special Time at home.
Check out these pages to find lots more information and great ideas.
Playing with your childTips on playing with babies and toddlersThe 15 best activities for children to help them learn through playPlaying is how toddlers learnThe Fundamental Building Blocks of Speech and Language
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