Playing & Learning (birth - 33 months)

Before Watching

Children learn about themselves, other people, and the world through play. When you encourage your little one to play throughout the day and investigate the things around her, you help her to practice new skills, discover how things work, and learn how to solve problems. As your child plays, she builds persistence, confidence, physical abilities, an awareness of the world, language and communication skills, imagination, creativity, and an overall sense of curiosity and wonder. For these reasons, play is not just fun—it’s a foundation for later success in school and in life. Children who have had lots of different play opportunities will be more likely to try new things and to see every experience as an opportunity for learning.

In this video you'll meet children from four families:

  • Indy (8 months) and her brother Nico (3 years) as they play in a pretend kitchen.
  • Ange-Yolette (3 years) and her brothers Adam (6 months) and Gregory (6 years) as they go for a walk and explore objects found in nature.
  • Milo (3 years) as he makes up stories with his plastic animals, paints, and pretends with his grandmother.
  • Big sister Eloise (3 years) and her brother Otis (16 months) as they pretend-play "bus" together.

Watch the important role that play has in their lives and in their learning.

After Watching

Play and Learn, Learn and Play. Play helps children learn and grow. In the video, Nico discovers engineering concepts as he plays with blocks, Milo tells stories and develops communication skills as he imagines with his animals, and Otis explores gravity as he pours a block out of a basket. Play can take many forms. It's not only games and pretending. Play is also dancing, drawing, solving puzzles, exploring objects, building, doing simple experiments, making sounds, being physical, having fun with books, being with a friend, and making up stories. What has your child learned through play? What types of questions does she ask as she plays? What play scenarios seem to interest her most?

Try This. Take note of your child's interests and offer objects that will inspire play. Think about other ways you can encourage or join in your child’s play. What ideas from the video inspired you? If your child is interested in animals, help him make a bed for a stuffed animal or pretend to feed it, or make believe you are going to the vet for a checkup. You might also check out some books about animals from the library and leave them out so he can look at the pictures as he plays.

Children at Play.  Babies and toddlers have very different ways of playing. In the video, babies Indy and Otis mostly explore objects by feeling them, tasting them, opening them, and dropping them. Toddlers and preschoolers Milo, Eloise, Nico, and Ange-Yolette engage in pretend play, elaborate building, and painting. Everyday objects make great toys for children of any age. Think about your child’s toys. Are they homemade or store bought? What types of things does your child enjoy most? What everyday objects could you provide to extend your child’s play?

Try This. Create a box or bin with everyday items such as clean, empty milk and egg cartons, plastic bottles with lids, aluminum pie plates, and paper towel rolls. Your baby will enjoy making sounds with these objects and figuring out how they open and close. Your toddler just might use these items to build a robot or open his own pretend restaurant.

Grown-ups at Play. Whether you have an infant, toddler, or preschooler, you can be a part of his play. In the video, Milo's grandmother played a character in his imaginary world, Ange-Yolette's mom asked questions to encourage her daughter's explorations, and Eloise's mom helped her include her little brother Otis in her game.

Try This. Help your child get more out of play by asking “W” questions: who, what, when, where, and why. As she explores, ask: Why do you think that happened? What do you think will happen next? What if you tried this...? Who are you pretending to be? The next time you and your child are playing, see how many “W” questions you can come up with as you play along.

Encourage your child to ask questions too, and explore the answers together.

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