Play time with your little one can be a tremendous learning opportunity if done the right way. Some of the big name psychologists like Piaget and Vygotsky were the first to observe the relationship between cognition and play. Cognitive skills can predict play skills, play skills predict language skills, and vice versa.
Learning happens through interacting with the environment. In infancy and early childhood, play is the activity through which children learn to manipulate their environment, recognize and respond to people and other tangibles, and truly learn the very building blocks of reality.
8 ways to Promote Learning Through Play:
- Talk to your child every chance you get during playtime. In the words of Lise Eliot, “The only thing we know that makes babies smarter, is talking to them.”
- Play WITH your child. Playing together is far more enriching than playing alone. Young children are drawn to adults because they have much to learn and gain from interacting with us.
- Work on imitation. Model a play activity, such as banging blocks, throwing a ball, feeding a baby, and wait for your child to imitate the same activity.
- New experiences help with cognitive development... consider Toy Rotation, or expose your child to new places (like a coffee shop, a park, the library, etc.) and a variety of different people frequently
- Say goodbye to iThings, and choose toys that foster language development that require more manipulation for play
- Cause and effect is the simplest form of learning. For every action, there is a reaction and learning this simple relationship means brain growth. For instance, “if I shake this rattle, then it makes it noise,” is teaching your child how they can volitionally manipulate the environment. Create more cause and effect opportunities every chance you get.
- Create challenges for your little one to foster early critical thinking and problem solving skills. Make reaching for an object just a tad more difficult, or try playing with puzzles or shape sorters. Modeling a solution is also a great way to promote learning.
- Make it fun! If you’re enjoying playtime with your little one, chances are they are too. So channel your inner child, get down on the floor with them, and PLAY!
Speech-language pathologists are always evaluating play skills, and how children are able to use symbolic and dramatic play with language, since these two skills are so closely correlated.
So get playing with your child, to help with cognitive and language development.