Playing is one of the most important activities in a toddler's life, as it helps them develop physically, emotionally, and socially. Here are some tips for parents to encourage their toddlers to play and learn through play:
Provide a safe and stimulating environment: Create a play area that is free from hazards and filled with age-appropriate toys, books, and games. Make sure, however, there are not too many toys out at once, which may distract your toddler from focusing on a particular interaction with you.
Use open-ended toys: Open-ended toys, such as blocks, dolls, art supplies, play-do, toy food and dishes, train sets, and toys that mimic real life, offer endless possibilities for play and encourage children to use their imagination. These toys allow children to explore, experiment, and create in their own unique way, promoting creativity, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking.
Get involved: Play with your toddler and show interest in what they are doing. Ask questions (but not too many), make suggestions, and join in the fun.
Use declarative language: During playtime, use simple and clear language to describe what is happening and what you and your child are doing (ex., "The train is moving slowly.", "We are building a bridge.", or "Uhoh, I dropped the pizza!") This helps your child build vocabulary, understand cause and effect, and learn about the world around them. Using declarative language also helps build their understanding of language, which is an important foundation for future learning.
Encourage independence: Allow your toddler to make their own choices and decisions during playtime. If your child needs the language to make choices, you might provide a binary choice so that they can hear the language (ex., "Do you want the train or the truck?", "Do you need the baby's blanket or her bottle?"). This helps build confidence and encourages them to explore and experiment.
Offer a variety of play experiences: Offer a mix of structured and unstructured play activities, including creative play, active play, and pretend play. This exposes your toddler to different types of play and helps them develop new skills.
Limit screen time: Excessive screen time can have negative effects on your toddler's development. Instead, encourage physical and imaginative play.
Model appropriate behavior: Children learn by observing and copying the behavior of others. Model positive play habits, such as sharing and taking turns.
In conclusion, play is essential for toddlers' growth and development. By providing a safe and stimulating environment, getting involved in play, offering a variety of play experiences, using open-ended toys, and utilizing declarative language, parents can help their toddlers learn and grow through play.
If you have questions about your toddler's play and language development, Access to Better Communication's speech-language pathologists would be happy to help you! Contact us by phone 225.930.0208 or through our contact link on our website!