Child Action, Inc. • 9961 Horn Road, Sacramento, CA 95827 • 916/369-0191 • www.childaction.orgPlay is special for children. Not only is it fun, but itis also important for healthy development. It is their“work” and their way of learning about the world.Through play, children try out new skills, exploretheir imagination and creativity, and developrelationships with other people in their lives. Playcan be an especially powerful bonding time foryou, as a parent or caregiver. Playtime with yourchild also brings out the best in you. The beauty ofthis learning and growing time is that themotivation for a young child to play is already there– it is enjoyable!How Adults Can Support PlayParents and caregivers should provide a safeenvironment that offers a variety of play materialsto meet the different developmental skill levels andsupport the creative interests of children. It is alsoimportant to maintain a structured daily routine thatincludes rest, meals/snacks, active play and quietactivities.Select toys that meet the interests of childrenduring different stages of growth and development.When introducing new toys to children, it isimportant to show them how to play with and carefor the new items.You may want to help initiate play activities andthen play with the children when asked to join inthe activity. Keep in mind that parents are theirchildren’s first and favorite playmates. From thevery beginning of your child’s life, she is engagingin play with you, whether following your face asyou move it slowly from one side to the other, orlistening to your voice as you sing to her during adiaper change. Children love it when you are “silly”with them in play, and learn social skills bymodeling your behavior. Over the years, yourchildren may have a lot of fun toys to play with, butthey don’t compare to you!Stages of PlayChildren’s behavior in play develops in stages. Playallows children to explore new things at their ownpace, master physical agility, learn new skills andfigure things out in their own way. During play withothers, children learn leadership skills by directingthe action or by following a leader.The following are common stages of play:• Onlooker Behavior: Watching what otherchildren are doing, but not joining in the play• Solitary Play: Playing alone without regard forothers; being involved in independent activities likeart or playing with blocks or other materials• Parallel Activity: Playing near others but notinteracting, even when using the same playmaterials• Associative Play: Playing in small groups with nodefinite rules or assigned roles• Cooperative Play: Deciding to work together tocomplete a building project or pretend play withassigned roles for all of the members of the groupHandout #13 Healthy Children, Strong Families, Caring CommunitiesThe Importance of PlayActivities for Children
Page 2 - Importance of PlaySafety TipsToys should be:• Well made with no sharp parts, splinters orbroken pieces• Strong enough to hold the child’s weight• Non-toxic and lead-free• Shatterproof and easily cleaned• Non-electric• Checked frequently for safety• Out of children’s reach if they have small parts• Properly supervised by adultsLearning to Share is a ProcessLearning to share takes several years to masterand consists of three stages of development:• First Stage: Children think everything is “mine.”• Second Stage: Children discover that somethings belong to others.• Third Stage: Children know they can lend a toyand get it back. Children are more likely to sharewhen they see their toy come back to them andwhen other children share with them.Children and adults need to know their ownpossessions will be respected. Special toys andcomfort items (like a blanket or stuffed toy) do notneed to be shared. When children are tired orcranky, they may go back to the first stage ofsharing.Sharing also refers to playing or working together ina cooperative effort. Working with others onprojects, sharing a meal, solving a problem orplaying a group game are other ways to model thisbehavior.Infant PlayAdults should provide colorful, safe toys and a safeplace for infants to exercise and move about.Babies learn to coordinate the muscle groups thatlater enable them to walk, run, read and write.Infants communicate with cries, sounds, bodymovements and facial expressions, so adults mustlearn to interpret these signals to meet the physicalneeds of infants. Adults should notice when infantsare hungry, tired or over-stimulated with too manytoys, people or activities.Infants need to feel a tie to a special person orprimary caregiver who makes them feel important,safe and secure. Soft voices and special gameshelp them grow and develop. Dancing with aninfant slowly and gently to music, singing orhumming while giving any necessary head andbody support, will help to establish trust andstimulate the brain.Once infants are crawling, scooting and walking,games like “peek-a-boo” or crawling through acardboard box tunnel add to the fun. Other favoritesduring this stage include shaking rattles, rolling aball and picking up and dropping toys and objectsfrom a highchair. All of these activities are ways tolearn object permanence – the concept that peopleand objects exist even when out of sight.Additional activities include filling buckets or bowlswith a variety of toys or objects. Dumping andfilling, naming objects, reading books, repeatingsounds and having mirrors available to point outparts of the body are some important activities thatincrease an infant’s vocabulary and help developconfidence and self-assurance.
Page 3 - Importance of PlayPreschool ActivitiesAt this stage of development, children enjoy makingtheir own choices. They experiment with newmaterials and discover creative ways of using toysor recycled containers.According to Janice Beaty in Pre-school AppropriatePractices (1992), preschool-age children learnmanipulation, mastery and the meaning of objects.Manipulation is the process children use as they tryfigure out how different objects work and what theycan do with them. Then, with some control overthese objects, they progress to mastery and repeatactions as a way of practicing what they havelearned. Children assign meaning to their playexperiences when they can use materials in newand creative ways.Children benefit from playing in the following areas:• Blocks allow children to experiment withconstruction techniques while learning thevocabulary of spatial concepts like “inside,”“outside,” “next to” or “on top of.” In addition,blocks help children express ideas and feelings,interpret what they have observed and learncooperation and planning.• Pretend Play with housekeeping equipment,adult clothes and other materials, let childrenexperience role-playing with their own family lifeor other people they encounter. With the rightprops, children can become firefighters, groceryclerks, truck drivers, postal workers, fast foodclerks or any other roles they want to explore.Creativity flows as children express their feelings,imagination and ideas.• Art Materials include a variety of paper, crayons,paint supplies, pens, scissors, markers, collagematerials, tape, a hole punch, glue, glitter and anyother items that allow children to explore,experience their five senses and enjoy thefreedom of creativity.• Sensory Play can include containers of water,sand, dirt, birdseed, rice, cornmeal, ground walnutshells or any other texture that encouragesexperimentation with volume, measurement andother math skills. Using measuring cups, buckets,water wheels, sifters, spoons and recycledcontainers, children can pour from one containerto another. These activities stimulate a child’ssense of touch and are calming for children whoneed to relax or spend time alone.• Puzzles and Manipulatives like small blocks,Legos®, stringing beads, pegs and pegboards ontabletops or on the floor encourage children todevelop their creativity, math skills, small musclesand hand-eye coordination. Watch out for smallpieces around younger children.• Music and Movement can be encouraged withrecorded music, musical instruments (made orpurchased), songs, finger plays and other itemssuch as scarves, ribbons or streamers. Theseactivities offer a change of pace, an opportunity toexpress feelings, release tension and provide funwith vocabulary and nonsense words.• Cooking provides an opportunity for children toexperiment with science, math skills andmeasurement. It also encourages them to followdirections, build vocabulary and try new foods.Cooking gives children the opportunity to observechanges from heat, cold or the addition of liquids.Single portion recipes allow children to make theirown snacks while developing their reading skills.• Books and Storytelling offer a different world tochildren. Visits to the library during storytellinghour give children a chance to experience themagic of a performance by a storyteller, findbooks on their favorite subjects and discover newthings they would like to explore.Recipes For FunPuff Paint1 ½ cups shaving cream¼ cup white glueFood color or liquid water colorMix glue and shaving cream together in a bowl,until it looks like thick whipped cream. Divideinto separate cups and add different colors toeach one. Let the children apply it withpaintbrushes, q-tips or spoons into piles orspread thin. Use cardboard or paper plates. Letit dry for 24 to 48 hours.
6/07 H:Public Relations UnitPUBLICATIONSHandoutsHandout 13 - Importance of PlayPage 4 - Importance of PlaySchool-Age ActivitiesSchool-age children need lots of physical activityafter a structured school day. Organized sports,athletic activities, arts and crafts, along withopportunities for conversation with friends andcaring adults, will help to build self-confidence andencourage social growth. School-age children mayneed these types of activities before they sit downfor long periods to do homework.The following are examples of activities enjoyed byschool-age children:• Arts and Crafts can include weaving, clay, masks,costumes, puppets, sewing, knitting, tie dying,jewelry making and other similar activities.Children may still enjoy the creativity of plainpaper, markers, pens or paint to create items suchas paper hats, mobiles, masks, gift-wrap ororiginal artwork.• Games with Rules can include dodge ball, “RedLight, Green Light,” hopscotch, “Simon Says,”soccer, tennis, softball or other favorite sportsplayed outside. Indoor games may include playingcards and board games (checkers, chess, bingo,dominos, trivial pursuit and scrabble). Activitiesusing paper and pencil such as dot-to-dot,crossword puzzles, tic-tac-toe or even Pictionary,can challenge the mind and build self-esteem.• Clubs and Field Trips can include children in oneage group or mixed age groups. Clubs can includeorganized groups like scouts, 4-H or informalones. Field trips to parks, the beach, a hospital,fire station, farm, post office, and radio or TVstations expose children to the naturalenvironment and the community.ResourcesChild Action Inc.’s Resource Library has a variety ofresource materials available to assist parents andchild care providers. Call 916/369-0191 for moreinformation.Books• Before the Basics by Bev Bos• Hands around the World by Susan Milord• Games to Play with Toddlers by Jackie Silberg• The Curiosity Club by Allene RobertsVideos• Before and After School . . . Creative Experiences• Learning through Play• The Creative Curriculum (Spanish)• Space to Grow (Spanish & Chinese)• New Games for Child Care Settings (Spanish)Creative WebsitesThe following websites promote creative play withideas for activities you can do at home with childrenof all ages using a wide range of creative materials:• Public Broadcasting Service’s educationalwebsite for kids: www.pbs.org/wholechild/parents/play.html• Science toys and experiments you can make withyour kids: www.scitoys.com• San Francisco Symphony Kids website on musicappreciation especially for kids: www.sfskids.org• Art, science, architecture, history, ethnic studies,puzzles, games, activities and much more, justfor kids: www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/home.htmRecipes For FunPlaydough2 cups flour1 cup salt4 teaspoons cream of tartar2 tablespoons vegetable oil2 cups water with food color or liquid watercolorMix all ingredients in a non-stick pan overmedium heat until it pulls away from the sidesof the pan. Turn out on wax paper. Knead whencool enough to handle.