Watching your child grow is perhaps one of the most valuable gifts that you can experience on this planet. However, it’s also one that’s often plagued with anxiety – am I providing my child with a varied enough diet? Am I the devil for not letting them eat sweets with every meal? How much TV is too much TV?
Image credit: happy children
Don’t worry – you’re not the first to think these things, and you won’t be the last. There isn’t a parenting handbook unfortunately, but we do have a few tips for you on how to make playtime educational – while still being fun. Enjoy!
Keep it varied
A vital part of your toddler’s education is to ensure that they get the chance to practise lots of different skills. Offer them the chance to have a go at a wide variety of different activities – for example, painting and drawing are great for motor skills, while also developing creativity. Meanwhile, playing card memory games is great for them to practice retaining information. Similarly, construction and building toys (available on websites such as LukiLab.com) tend to improve problem solving skills and encourage creative thinking.
Variety will also ensure that your child remains interested in playtime, and can avoid tantrums due to them getting bored. However, it’s important not to be too regimented – don’t stop a fun game of snap just because you’ve hit your memory quota for the day! Part of your child’s education is learning about what they like and what they don’t, so let them take the lead.
Ask them questions
If you ask open ended questions during playtime, your child will probably surprise you by just how much is going on in that little head of theirs. Avoiding questions that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer will encourage creativity and enable you to find out more about your child. Remain positive, also – you may not think that a monster would live at the top of a tower, for instance, but that doesn’t make their answer ‘wrong’.
Don’t take over
While you’ll probably have to offer some assistance to your little one by demonstrating how a toy works, doing it for them every time could hinder their learning and also lead to confidence issues. Your child will gain enormous amounts of satisfaction from being able to complete tasks on their own, and they’ll never get there if you don’t let them try.
However, when your child is still a toddler, they will still need some guidance. It’s important to learn the right balance for your child so that you offer enough help to avoid too much frustration (and tantrums) but not so much that they don’t learn for themselves. As a parent, you will know your child better than anyone, so you’ll be able to make this distinction well.
Remember – the child who is taught the world as it is, will never create the world as it might be. If you let your child explore different ways of solving a problem, they may even surprise you with a cool new solution that you’d never even considered.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
You may get bored of playing with the same toy, watching the same movie or drawing the same picture over and over again, but your child won’t – and this is an essential part of their development. This is how they will master the skills they’re practising, and while it can be frustrating, try to focus on how much they are improving and use that to show enthusiasm when they want to play building blocks (again).
Invite their friends over
Not only does encouraging playtime with friends allow your child to learn social skills such as sharing and working as a team, it also allows them to learn skills that their friends may have. A child who never has friends over will also have much fewer toys to play with, and a wide variety of toys is great for helping your child to practise a wide range of skills.
This guest post was written by James Radcliff who is a tutor working for UK Tutors (.com). James enjoys writing about all sorts of educational issues and helping parents to provide a better education for their children. James is also a believer in attachment parenting.