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Playing is important in the development of your toddler

Author Danina Kooijman, Pedagogical policy officer at Kibeo
Published November 2, 2020

If you've seen a toddler grow up close up, you already know; toddlers play a lot. They develop at lightning speed and learn something new every day. The development during a child's early years has an impact on his or her later life. But how do these little explorers get to play? And why is play important in your toddler's development?

When your toddler first enters daycare, there are many situations where he or she learns new things. Your growing toddler learns to move better, starting with the basics of reading and arithmetic, dealing with emotions, playing together and taking other children into account. But how do they learn that?

Play is essential for development

Toddlers are naturally creative, curious and eager to explore. While playing, they explore the world and the people around them, with all the possibilities they have: move, look, feel, listen, imitate, communicate... This all comes together during the game. Play is developed by the well-known developmental psychologist Vygotksy the leading activity mentioned in the preschool period. Play is important and indispensable in the development of your toddler.

The stimulating play environment

Toddlers need space, rest, freedom and challenge to be absorbed in the game. They also need a stimulating environment. In the first instance, we think of the layout of the room: there must be enough play material, sufficient variation and challenging play corners. The game and the materials must also match the possibilities of the child, it must not be too difficult (causes frustration) but also not too easy (causes boredom). As an adult you are also part of a stimulating environment, you can increase the quality of the game and challenge the children. But how?

Participate in your child's play yourself

It is important to first watch and listen to what the children are doing. Then you can join the game and participate. When you play along you can deepen the game by adding new things. If you play with your toddlers in the house corner, you can make the game more exciting: 'Oops, this pan is very hot' while you pull your hands off it. Or with the cars you can add the garage to the game: 'I think I'm going to park my car in the garage for a while'. You bring the toddlers to new ideas and expand the game options, which increases the quality of the game. A rule of thumb here is: give the kids the lead and join their play!

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