How does baby games promote learning and development in children?
A child’s play is not just all fun and games; rather the act of the play is a crucial component in the growth and development of the brain, body and intelligence. Read more on the importance of play for children here.
Children acquire knowledge through play, experimentation and discovery. Many of the fundamental traits and skills that children must learn, such as, exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development and the absorption of basic knowledge about their ecosystems, can be most effectively learned through play.
For example, when children move in, out, over, under, above, below, far and near objects, the child truly grasps the meaning of these prepositions and basic geometric concepts in a deep way. When children are given an opportunity to follow instructions using words like walk, run, jump, climb etc., they can quickly understand them and learn to follow.
This promotes not only an emergent literacy but also a deeper love for effective language and communication in toddlers. Technically, “Learning by doing, creates more neural networks in the brain and muscle memory throughout the body, making the entire body a tool for learning.”
Why Should Parents Understand Developmental Milestones for better “Baby Play”?
Developmental milestones are the age-appropriate abilities achieved by most children as they grow and develop. These developmental milestones include physical skills, language skills and behaviour skills like social, emotional and intellectual development.
Understanding the developmental milestones of the child, help the parents to optimize the learning from baby play and can also make it more engaging and fun as:
- It allows parents to make the play instructions more appropriate in terms of complexity, language, communication and emotions.
- Parents can choose the games which are in sync with the child’s dexterity and physical milestones.
- Finally, it helps parents to increase the difficulty level of the game in a gradual and phased manner, giving the child an opportunity to understand the emerging sense of self, others and the environment.
2 to 3 Years Old Developmental Milestones
2 to 3 years old have started to master their own bodies and are just beginning to learn to cooperate with others. They also start to recognize that they are independent beings and are actively exploring their world. Everything is interesting to them. Everything is new.
- Can walk up and down stairs
- Jump, run and hop on one foot smoothly.
- Can throw a ball, kick a ball and catch a ball.
- Can feed himself using a spoon or hand and drink from cup and glass.
- Can pedal a bi-cycle or other ride-on toys.
Language & Communication Development
- Can follow instructions with 2-3 steps, like “Go to bathroom and brush your teeth”.
- Can have a conversation involving 2-3 sentences at one time and every sentence having 3 to 4 words.
- Understand the pronouns like I, Me, You and We and simple prepositions like inside, outside, under, over and between.
Social & Emotional Development
- Shows awareness for own feelings and other feelings. Also show begin to empathise with others.
- Becomes assertive and learns to say ‘No’ to adult demands and instructions.
- Enjoys playing games alongside other kids, but is mostly involved in the parallel play.
- Starts showing fear in certain scenarios like when in a dark, when alone etc.
- Defends its possessions like toys and is unlikely to share.
Intellectual / Cognitive Development
- Recognizes and groups objects according to specific characteristics (colour, shape, size etc).
- Understands the consequences of their actions.
- Can put together simple puzzles (3-4 piece inset puzzles).
- Plays make-believe or pretend play with objects, toys and people.
- Can pay attention to an activity for 5 to 15 minutes at a time.
Baby Games to play with your toddler i.e. 2-to-3 years old kid
‘And the first step – is always what matters most, particularly when we are dealing with the young and tender. This is the time when they are taking shape and when any impression we choose to make leaves a permanent mark’
Irrespective of the nature of the play, it is crucial for you to ensure that the feeling of “lost” or “defeated” after the game is not introduced to the kid. Parents should take special care about this point.
Pretend play is one of the cornerstones of a young child’s world. Almost anything can spur your child’s imagination, including everyday objects. Using this new ability to pretend, the child can transform a block of wood into a train, TV remote into mobile and a few pots and spoons into a drum set.
Here are some play ideas to get you started.
1. Role Play
Role-play games will build confidence, creativity, language and communication skills and increase the imagination in your child. Role-playing games allow the child to step into the shoes of a character and act out real-life roles or fictional performances.
Tips for Role Play
Occupational Role Play
Make your toddler enact the roles of doctor, teachers and shopkeeper, cook etc. It will allow her to act out real-life situations and get creative! It increases a child’s ability to positively interact with others. It also makes them act out and share their understanding and observations of the person in question.
Enacting Real Life Scenarios
Encourage your child to act out real-life scenarios, such as grocery shopping, cooking, driving etc. This will provide your toddler with an opportunity to learn about real-life environments and situations at their own pace. When they engage in this type of role play, they also develop their language and communication skills as well as physical mannerisms by practicing what they have already learnt and observed in real life situations.
Explore: Development Milestone (18-36 months)
2. Simon Says Game
This is a very popular children’s game and has many different versions worldwide, with the basic rule that “players must obey a command”. The Indian version of “Simon says” game is known as “Chidiya Udd” (Birds Fly). In this, an analogy to what can fly and what cannot is emphasized instead of Simon saying or not. The term ‘bird’ can then be replaced with things which cannot fly.
Rules of the “Chidiya udd” game
- If you are playing this game with your toddler, keep your right hand index finger on the table and ask your child to do the same.
- Next, in turns, call out names of things that fly like crow, parrot, airplane etc. and suffixed it with the word udd (fly).
- Ask your child to respond to each call by raising her index finger from the table.
- The catch is when you call out something which cannot fly, and your child raises the finger, everyone bursts into giggles! For example: Chidiya udd, tota udd, maina udd…gadha udd (Bird Flies, Parrot Flies, Maina Flies … Donkey Flies)!
- Next, ask your child to initiate the same.
- Note: The game is more fun when you play it fast.
3. Hide & Seek
Popularly known as “Lucca Chuppi” in India, this game is bound to engage your kid. To make this game a fun as well as a learning experience, conceal yourself at a place, and ask your toddler to find you. While playing Hide & Seek with your toddler, use the words such as “front”, “behind”, “closer”,” “nearer” and “farther away” to describe how far away your child is from finding you. This will make your toddler develop a sense of location and distance. The game will also help improve the sense of balance, agility, and coordination in your kid.
4. Hunt the Thimble
This is an advanced version of the game ‘Peekaboo’, which would have helped your kid during infancy learn the concept of object permanence (that things can still exist even though they might not be able to see them), in this game, you can hide an object like your toddler’s toy, somewhere in the house, and ask your child to find it. While exploring the object with your toddler, use cues like “warm”, “hot” and “cold” to guide her, based on proximity to the hidden object—the closer they get, the hotter they are; thus, the farther they are from the object, the colder they are. This game encourages your little ones to use their imagination and helps them to develop problem-solving skills as they try to work out the best place to find or hide their target. They will also start to appreciate the concept of shape and size as they try to find the smallest hiding place, the object can fit into.
5. Odd One Out
A great game to play with your toddler to help them understand the concept of patterns likes “similar” and “different”. You can play this game using pieces of fruit, toys, objects etc. For example: Place a couple of apples and a banana, in front of your toddler and ask her which the odd one out is. Continue making the game more difficult as your toddler gets the hang of it. Use card shapes, sizes or pictures, such as two squares and one triangle or two flowers and one leaf.
Final Note on a Parent’s Role When Playing with Your Toddler
- Let your toddler lead during the play by allowing her to choose what to do and how to do it within the safety limits and time constraints. It will allow her to try her own judgment and show you what delights her.
- Always join in your toddler’s play, but only when invited to do so and never take over. As she lets you into her world of make-believe, give her complete control. In real life, you may be in charge, but this is her world. Remember this.
- The attention and the level of engagement you show to your toddler while playing together is key to building her self-esteem. For example, when you pretend along with her, you show her that you accept her make-believe world, that something she is interested in is fun and important to you, too.