Playing with your child
builds their lifelong skills
WRITTEN BY ANNE GEORG
Balls are a blast, Lego is lovely andscreens seem to be everywhere. But notoy, game or virtual pastime is morefascinating and beneficial to a child thanplaying and interacting with his parentsand caregivers.
Play often includes serve-and-returnexchanges (see page 10), which arecritical for healthy brain development.Jane Hewes likens serve-and-returnexchanges to a game of tennis orvolleyball.
The child begins with a gesture or
sound—the “serve”—and the parent
responds with the “return.”
“Infants invite us into a play
relationship that is incredibly
rewarding,” says Hewes, associate dean
of the Faculty of Education and Social
Work at Thompson Rivers University in
“Make sure your play has no goals,”says Hewes. What you play and whatyou play with are secondary to justbeing together. These serve-and-returnexchanges are also fun and shape achild’s future mental and physicalhealth. They can’t be replicated on ascreen.
North American pediatricians agreethat watching television has little valuefor children younger than two years oldand that television is not a replacementfor serve-and-return interactions.
“Interacting with people promotes
social development,” says David
Bickham, research scientist at the Center
on Media and Child Health at Boston
Children’s Hospital and an instructor of
pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
“TV doesn’t respond to a child. It’s
not like a parent making noise and facial
expressions that the child can mirror
back. The child can see that’s how a
face works and this kind of social play
becomes part of the development of
being skilled at social interactions.”
Toys and equipment also have a place,
and Bickham says the best ones are those
that let you and your child make up
stories as you play together. Toys from
popular television shows or movies
already have a storyline and that thwarts
the creative potential of play.
For more about playing with infants,babies, toddlers, preschoolers and newschoolers, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca. |a
Playing with parents and caregivers can help kids develop strong relationships and social skills.
THE EARLY YEARS