Sam Flatman, an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play, explores why playtime for babies is an essential part of healthy growth and development.

It’s natural for new parents worry about whether they’re doing enough to stimulate their baby and ensure healthy growth. Simply playing with your baby is an effective way to boost your child’s imagination and intelligence, support motor skill development and encourage emotional understanding. Babies benefit from all kinds of play and interaction, so experiment and enjoy playtime.

Boosting Imagination and Intelligence

Though your baby may spend most their time lying on their back and gurgling, their brains are ripe and ready to be engaged. From blowing bubbles to rolling balls, you can start to do these kinds of activities to get your baby watching, thinking and eventually playing. Watching those bubbles float by or even trying to catch them will improve your baby’s concentration, attention span and memory. To a baby, everything is new and exciting, so even what might seem simple to you, from toys to illustrations in storybooks, will begin developing their imagination.

Coordination and Motor Skill Development

Touch is really important when it comes to coordination and motor skill development. Up until the age of 3 months, your baby’s movements are mostly involuntary. You can help your child to gain control of their movements with soft touches on the back of their hands, leading them to open their fingers and eventually become able to grasp small objects. This is a good start to fine motor skills development, which will take place from 4 – 10 months onwards.

Hanging a mobile above your baby’s cot will help them to improve their visual tracking as they watch it move, and encourage them to begin reaching towards objects. Within their first year, babies will have developed just enough muscle coordination to start trying to grip and grasp objects. By 8 months old, babies will begin passing objects from hand to hand, working on their hand-eye coordination.

Social and Emotional Development

All interactions that you have with your newborn will support their social and emotional development. During your baby’s first year, there are plenty of little things that you will naturally begin to do, such as making good eye contact, changing the tone and pitch of your voice as you speak and showing them lots of smiles.

Your child will begin to react to your actions by holding your gaze, responding to the tone of your voice and smiling too. Through listening, babies will begin learning to differentiate people by their voices and develop attachments to people who they are familiar with. Newborn babies prefer high-pitched, female voices (hence the ‘baby voice’) and will primarily develop an attachment with their mother. Fathers, don’t be discouraged! There’s still plenty of room for a healthy engagement with both parents.

Growing Up…

As babies grow up, the essential skills which they have learned through baby playtime will be developed even further by new kinds of play. Their imagination and intelligence will be further boosted by pretend play and problem-solving activities. Coordination and motor skills will develop as they explore the outdoors and begin to traverse playground equipment. Social and emotional understanding will be improved as they interact with their peers, finding ways to express themselves and take on board the needs of others. Better get ready for playtime!

Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum.

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