By Rae Mok
When life gets to us, we often wish we can go back to our baby days, because all we did back then was play! In the baby’s first year, everything is new to him/her, and the best way to learn new things is through play.
Playing allows the baby to use all five senses together, and encourages the baby to explore using these senses. For example, a simple peek-a-boo game teaches the baby that there is something else hidden behind the hands, which is then revealed, much to the baby’s delight. A jack-in-the-box encourages the baby to fumble with the knobs, thus developing the fine and gross motor skills, and the reward is the clown jumping out of the box.
So how do we establish learning through play? Ivy Lock, 34, a Video Producer, shares with us what she and her husband, Terence Lim, 35, an IT Consultant, does with their 18-month old princess, Enyu.
Terence Lim, Enyu and Ivy Lock.
Ivy: “Enyu is a very active girl so we have to constantly come up with new things to keep her entertained. When she was younger, we would play finger puppets or hold toys in front of her to train her in visual tracking, understanding the concept of movement, and building her initial awareness of her surroundings. She especially liked to grab our fingers when we moved them across her face, but only when she was not too busy exploring her own fingers and toes!
Then we moved onto simple games like peek-a-boo, hiding a toy under the blanket and asking her to find it, so that she could understand the concept of something hidden under another. We also placed things out of her reach and set up pillows and bolsters along the “path”, so she had to conquer the “obstacles” before being rewarded with the toy. This is to help build her muscles while crawling over obstacles.
When her gross motor skills improved, we started playing musical instruments and singing songs to improve her sense of rhythm. Like all children, she likes to “invent” her own musical instruments with our pots and pans and we let her perform her own “rock concert” with them, but only with the unbreakable ones, of course!
As Enyu grew older, she began to enjoy having us read to her. She particularly enjoys it when we make exaggerating sounds and expressions and she joins in as well. As imagine-play is the highest level of play, we feel this is a good avenue to encourage her to use her imagination and creativity to bring the stories to life. She uses her imagination a lot as well when she engages in craft and playtime activities in her childcare centre.
We also buy toys that encourage her to explore and think, like activity tables, which have many sections to develop different skills like turning, tapping, twisting, and also toys like sorting blocks which require her to match the blocks to fit the right hole. We feel that these toys promote stimulating play, even when she is alone.
Enyu is now 18 months and being so active, she has developed her own type of play recently – role play! She likes to imitate us, like holding a broom to help me “sweep” the house, using a tissue paper to “mop” the floor, and even waiting at the washing machine for the laundry to get done! It is indeed such a joy to be playing these games with her and watching how she learns different skills from them.
We have also recently enrolled her in a Shichida class upon recommendation from friends. The program provides right-brain training and it is touted to be able to develop the child’s right brain, which is the part for creativity and imagination, and thus the child will grow up to be more focused, learn better, have better memory, and even learn mathematical concepts easier. But she’s only gone for a few lessons so we have not really seen any difference yet.
Enyu is in a childcare centre during weekdays while we work, so she is constantly exposed to socialising and doing activities with peers, which we think will provide her with a good foundation for school later. She is extremely friendly, and can talk your ears off once she warms up to you!
We are also hoping to expose Enyu to music and swimming, but I guess we will take it at her pace, as we believe it is still most important for her to enjoy what she does so that she can learn and develop her skills through enjoyable experiences."
Thank you, Ivy, for sharing with us Enyu’s first year of learning through play!
I Love Children recommends 2 good reads:
1) The Playskool Guide to Baby Play – More Than 300 Games and Activities to Play and Learn with Your Baby, By Robin McClure
2) Toddler Play, By Dr. Wendy S. Masi [Toddler Play is based on activities developed by Gymboree’s play experts for their Play and Music Programs]