One good way to actively engage your child is through play.
Play is central to children’s development and has an important role in developing children’s physical, social, communication and language skills.
The key to supporting your child to engage in play is to understand the stages of play.
Here are some tips on how to encourage your child to explore:
1. Walk Outside
Take your child for long stroller walks, so he comes to associate the outdoors with active movement. Point out the sights as you walk, and talk to your baby about your physical activity by saying things like, “Do you feel the gentle breeze on your face?”
2. Move Early and Often
Encourage movement-based play even before your child can move objects by herself.
3. Allow Movement
Make sure you’re encouraging movement, not forbidding it—even subconsciously. Putting your child in a jumper instead of a stationary seat while he watches you cook dinner, for example, will give him the opportunity to discover that movement is a positive experience in all sorts of times and places.
4. Safety First
Make sure that sharp furniture corners are covered, heavy objects are out of child’s reach, and soft mats or blankets cover hard tile floors. The safer your baby’s play space is, the more comfortable you’ll be encouraging active play.
5. Get Musical
Connect motion-based play with music. Children are naturally attuned to musical rhythms, which you can teach them to associate with movement by helping them clap their hands, stomp their feet, or reach high and low in time with the beat.
6. Play Along
Participate in your child’s games. Movement is more complex for young walkers and explorers, so your presence will not only protect them from taking unsafe risks, but it will also model that physical activity is fun.
7. Reward Movement
Cheers, tickles, and high-fives are great ways to reinforce that your child is doing a good thing when he is playing in an active way. Or, enjoy a glass of water or lemonade with your child after a game of backyard catch, to punctuate an active time with a satisfying reward.
8. Create Active Family Rituals
During weekends, institute an after-dinner twilight family walk around the neighborhood. From Saturday afternoon mini-golf tournaments to rainy-day games of Twister, pairing family bonding with active play is sure to create lasting, healthy memories.
9. Take Art Outside
Children armed with chalk and a blank sidewalk, or sent on a nature scavenger hunt to collect pine cones, sticks, or leaves will be exercising their creative minds at the same time that they’re moving their bodies.
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Photo credit: Getty