As a parent, what do you think constitutes play for your toddler? Take a moment to think about that.
Many parents believe that all their child needs to survive is academic prowess. They couldn’t be more wrong. Very few things will facilitate your child’s development the way a balanced schedule of work and play would. The development that comes from fun extracurricular activities may not be as direct as watching them finally get what two multiplied by two is. It may take longer, but it might also be more impactful. Playtime is essential for preschoolers, and here’s why:
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it may not be as obvious as you think. A lot of the activities during playtime are largely based on imagination and creativity. You will often find kids forming stories and creating characters, many of which are too hilarious to think of, but this is exactly how they boost their creative power. There should be no limits to a child’s imagination on the playground. Give them free rein and watch the wheels turn in their heads as they spin and spin. Playtime is a fantastic way of tickling a child’s creativity, from painting to cartwheels to building objects from Lego blocks.
What better way to improve a child’s social skills than having them interact with their peers on the playground? As kids spend more time around their age mates and have conversations with them, they will learn to subconsciously read people’s reactions to certain things. They learn more about each other and unknowingly pick up social skills. It is not a one-day thing, but as time goes on, you will find that your child is instinctually learning what relationships require.
Do you know the best thing about imaginative play for kids? It’s communication, this may not work when they are playing alone but it’s a fantastic way of developing their vocabulary and learning more about their language when they are doing it with other kids. As a parent, you may end up engaging in this game alone with your preschooler, especially if you want them to play at home. Watch and help them name their toys and form stories around the toy characters. As they try to express themselves and understand you, your child will learn new words and understand others better.
Did we already mention that even though the kids are technically “playing”, their general intelligence can be greatly improved during playtime? This is because the seemingly easy tasks of building shapes from jelly, building Lego blocks, naming characters, and forming stories take more IQ power than you would realize. As you know, practice makes perfect, and the more the kids do this, the more they exercise their brain, and the better they get at it. Also, discovering what a toy does takes some thinking; they may not realize this, but it does. Will this toy move if I press this button? What sound will it make if I throw it across the room? Yes, kids must think like that when they think about the mess they make.
What do you think happens when a child throws a toy across the room, hoping it makes a funny sound but doesn’t? What about when they try to build their favorite character with jelly slime one way, and it doesn’t work? Maybe they will throw a tantrum, but chances are they will try another way again. Playing with toys stimulates early brain development in kids. Through trial and error, they learn and unlearn from their experiences until they find what works. If your preschoolers are not allowed enough playtime, they may slowly lose the ability to connect between one experience and the other. So, let them play!
As preschoolers spend more time with each other or with their toys, they slowly pick up the concept of emotion regulation. Imagine if your child started school without the ability to even slightly restrain themselves from throwing an object, picking up someone else’s stuff, or throwing a tantrum. This is likely to happen if they are not allowed any playtime during preschool. Pretend play helps children learn how to react appropriately in certain situations. Whether with adults or kids of their age, they develop an understanding of how to respond when problems arise. What they learn at this stage will not only help them when they start school but will likely stick with them through their lifetime.
Allowing your kids to be active during playtime will surely improve their physical health. Even as adults, if all we do is sleep, eat, and cry, we know we are inviting many diseases that come with living such a sedentary lifestyle. Now, imagine that for a three-year-old who should be up and about. Preschoolers tend to be everywhere; they just can’t sit still. Please allow them. Play that involves physical activities, especially with other kids can improve their strength, endurance, and motor skills. Imagine playing and getting stronger! It sounds like a win-win to us.
Playtime is underrated when you think about all the benefits that it has for your child. Even if you don’t care about all these other benefits, what about just keeping your child happy? This should be enough motivation to allot some playtime to them. It seems doubtful that preschoolers may have things they are stressed about, but we bet they do. Having friends over, playing pretend games, and discovering how new toys work will be an excellent way to balance this out.
You can engage preschoolers in different types of play activities; they can be structured or unstructured. It is best to alternate between a mix of both.
Structured games are guided by rules, for example, soccer, hide and seek, dance, drama, and so on. These games will help them learn more about communication and following rules. It is one of those games that may enhance emotional regulation. Some structured games may be less physically active than others. Storytelling, for instance, just requires them to sit around you and listen. In this case, encourage them to ask questions and imagine the stories.
Unstructured games may involve a few household objects that kids can use to form anything of their choice. It is imaginative and does not limit their creativity. It could also include building blocks, sand castles, paintings, etc.
All of these activities should be done under the watchful eyes of an adult. Preschoolers can be quite funny, you see, especially when it comes to putting objects in their mouths.
What if you don’t have the time to create playtime for you and your toddler at home? Do you simply give up and watch them sulk their way up to school age? Well, you don’t have to do that because there are programs just for you. Sometimes, you may just like the idea of having your kid interact with kids their age. This program works either way.
Have you ever heard of the MCCA, the Montgomery County Children Association? It is a non-profit organization that is concerned with helping kids develop outside of school in a safe and fun environment. They are specialized in Montgomery county and its surroundings. This organization has locations in different areas, including Silver Spring and Rockville.
They allow you to bring your kids either before or after school for unrestricted interaction with their peers and engage in several extracurricular activities. It may be unrestricted in that their imagination is not limited and they are allowed to explore different activities, but it is all done in the care of attentive staff. You don’t have to worry about their safety. So, they have all you and your child may need. Go ahead and check out MCCA.
MCCA has been recognized by the Maryland State Legislature for its commitment to Montgomery County issued a quality programs and special needs child care Proclamation in 2016 to MCCA for its commitment to Montgomery County child care for more than 50 years. MCCA was also selected as a 2018 nonprofit finalist for a MOXIE Award for boldness and innovation
MCCA is the oldest nonprofit licensed child care provider in Montgomery County and started its work in 1968 as a Community Action Project of the War on Poverty. Recognizing the need for quality child care programs in their neighborhoods, a group of local activists formed an association to establish centers in Montgomery County that would serve a diverse population and establish high standards for child care. Now, more than 50 years later, MCCA’s dedicated and expertly trained staff continue their tradition of providing high quality child care and play-based education for children.
Families with school aged children who can afford their child care expenses during the school year often struggle to afford the all-day programs they need when school is out for the summer. The Richard Krampf Summer Adventures Scholarship Fund was established to help provide children a safe and stimulating place to spend their weeks when school is out. Please contact an MCCA Director for details on how to apply.