The True Value of QualAuntie Time
QualAuntie Time is any time spent with your niece or nephew, especially time spent playing together and having fun. Buy playtime is not just about fun and games, it is also an opportunity for you to foster your niece or nephew’s development. The benefits of play are remarkable. Play allows a child to understand and interact with the world around them. It promotes cognitive, motor, social–emotional and language development skills in children. In fact, play is considered so essential that it has been recognized by the United Nations as a right of every child “to relax and play, and join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and recreational activities” (Article 31: Convention on the Rights of the Child).
Children play differently at different ages:
Infants are busy discovering the world through their senses. They are exploring their body parts and learning how their body works. They are beginning to engage in simple social exchanges. At this age, in particular, you are often their favorite toy! Smiling, playing peek-a-boo, singing to them, and looking in mirrors together can be great fun. Babies love playing with objects with both color and high contrast. They play by grasping, banging, dropping, and shaking. Toys that have music or texture are great for children this age. Start to notice how your niece or nephew loves what you are doing together and asks for repetition by smiling, laughing, clapping, and saying “more.”
Toddlers are on the move and are developing a better understanding of how objects work and how they can control them. Taking turns rolling a ball, using push and pull toys, stacking with a few blocks, filling up and dumping out items from a bucket and playing with pop-up toys are all excellent choices at this stage. Toddlers are also beginning to participate in simple pretend play activities so dolls, trucks and stuffed animals are all great fun. They love to imitate “grown up” activities that they may see you doing such as talking on the phone or getting dressed for work. Playing with large piece puzzles and looking at picture books are a way to teach labels and build vocabulary.
Preschoolers are developing their pretend play skills and are beginning to sequence their play around themes (“Let’s play cooking.” or “Let’s play birthday party.”). Preschoolers will have their own ideas about how they want these routines to unfold, but you can add to their learning by adding new suggestions or possibly moving the play in an unexpected and exciting way. At this age, children will use toys symbolically so a block to the ear can be a telephone. However, props, such as tools to fix broken items around the house, food to cook and pretend people and places, can add to the excitement. At this age, children are more able to manage manipulatives and enjoy constructing items such as building towers with interlocking pieces and completing more complex puzzles.
Kindergarten age children will demonstrate increased cooperation during play and will play games requiring greater memory, structure and concentration. Playing board games is a wonderful way for a child to develop group skills and learn how to manage frustration as they realize that they may not always win at a game. Often children at this age have begun to develop unique interests and hobbies that can be nurtured through play and toys. If your niece is a budding scientist you can do experiments together or if your nephew loves magic you can practice magic tricks. Also, through play, you can help your niece or nephew learn academic readiness skills they will need for school. For example, count and sort blocks by colors and shapes or take turns scribbling on paper so they are preparing themselves for writing letters.
While play may look differently at different ages, there are two important principles that are timeless: playing safely and having fun are essentials.
Published: February 21, 2012