It’s no secret that play is critical for a child’s development. What may be more challenging is discovering ways to enhance that play, finding the time to make play meaningful, and keeping your child engaged for longer periods of time to maximize experiences. Here are some “Basics for Play” to consider and keep in mind while playing with your child at home.

Follow Your Child’s Lead

Getting on your child’s level and joining in their play is one of the easiest ways to make play meaningful. Showing genuine interest in a child’s interests opens up opportunities for all other play to occur. This indirectly tells children that what they are doing is important and special to you. Following their lead can be challenging if you have a child who perseverates or has very specific interests with toys but do not get discouraged. The social interaction is most important. In order to introduce new toys, you must always begin play with toys of interest. Then, and slowly, introduce new toys by modeling how to use them yourself while making them easily available.

Expand Your Child’s Play

Think beyond ways toys are “meant” to be used. Toys can be used in various ways to work on multiple concepts and areas of development. Consider that playing allows for continuous opportunities to increase language skills, social-emotional skills, cognitive skills and independent skills. Take legos for example: Playing with legos can target cognitive skills (colors, counting, height, length), fine motor skills (using hands/fingers), social-emotional skills (turn-taking, sharing, patience, persistence, imagination, dramatic play) and language (constant ability to talk about what you see, feel, build). Do not pressure yourself to turn every play situation into an educational lesson but it can be helpful to brainstorm ideas beforehand of new and fun ways to use the materials with your child that then allows you to go-with-the-flow and incorporate those skills into the play.

Have Fun!

Enjoy the opportunities to communicate and bond with your child. When a child sees an adult’s enthusiasm they are more likely to initiate play in the future. Keep in mind that quality of play will always be more important than quantity of play. Essentially, when taking the time to sit down and play with your child, make it count. Ten minutes of quality play is more impactful than twenty minutes of distracted or chaotic play. Make it meaningful by giving them your undivided attention. They will only be at this age or stage in development for a brief period of time. Relish the moments you are able to share with them.

To learn more contact Naomi Nickson, M.Ed. at Connect Child & Parent Enrichment at or 407-902-7814. Visit for more details about her counseling and coaching services.

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