I was immediately taken back to my university years of studying psychology the moment I saw my boys learning through play when they were several months old. It’s an official term (learning through play) that describes how little ones make sense of the world around them. The idea is that by playing, children develop their social and cognitive skills, emotionally mature and learn self-confidence.
But it’s only when the proper elements are in place that we set our children up to thrive (from wikipedia):
- play must be pleasurable and enjoyable
- play must have no extrinsic goals; there is no prescribed learning that must occur (i.e. mom isn’t telling the kids what they’re supposed to learn through the experience)
- play is spontaneous and voluntary (mom can set up an “invitation to play” on the table such as setting specific toys out to be played with but the children ultimately instigate the type of play with those toys and do it on their own time)
- play involves active engagement on the part of the player.
- play involves an element of make-believe.
Children need the tools to play, but this doesn’t mean they need a ton of toys in order to “properly” play. Our playroom is extremely simple and includes toy animals, train tracks, race tracks, a few trucks and tractors, arts & crafts, wooden puzzles but the most important and most played with toys are our collection of building. Spiky blocks, natural blocks, painted blocks, blocks with holes in them to make tunnels for marbles, huge foam blocks, and of course Lego. The only toys my children constantly reach for are race cars, blocks and Lego.
When my boys build I see them learning how to share, how to solve problems together, how to use words to explain what they want and I see them having those “aha!” moments when they conquer a tricky piece. All month long we’ve been playing with our Lego trying to come up with new ways to build and thinking outside the box. My almost 5 year old surprised me with a loaf of abstract bread for the animals to eat:
The Lego Bricks and Books Grow Caterpillar Grow has been great for my (almost) 3 year old. We read the book together and he builds while looking at the pages. It comes with easy to follow instructions and enough bricks to build a caterpillar and little friends.
Disclosure: I am a LEGO DUPLO Play Agent and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.