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Active Children

Let’s Play

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When your child plays, th​ey learn about their world, themselves and others. Play is about letting your child take the lead to create, build, and explore. Play builds healthy bodies and minds and is important for your child’s mental health and well-being. Play also gives your child the ability to:

  • explore how their body moves
  • solve problems
  • interact with others and objects
  • use language and be creative

Play also helps brain cells connect and supports learning and understanding.

Types of play include:

​Active play involves active, whole body movements. Examples include running, jumping, kicking, throwing, and catching. These movements form the basis for more complex movements.

Pretend play helps your child learn about the world and develop their imagination. Your child’s imagination has no limits. A piece of cardboard can be a flying carpet and a broom can be a galloping pony.

Creative play allows your child to use their hands and minds to build and create. This type of play includes arts and crafts, which lets them express themselves. It also helps to develop fine motor skills. Playing with blocks and puzzles develops eye-hand coordination and problem-solving skills.

Letting your child decide for themselves what they want to do and how to do it gives them time to:

  • let their thoughts and imagination go to different places
  • explore their ideas and be creative
  • develop their communication, social, and emotional skills
  • explore life skills such as problem solving, cooperation, and sharing
  • develop their physical skills

All children learn through play. Play helps them balance daily routines with free time where they get to take the lead and make the choices. When it comes to play, keep the focus on fun. Learning follows naturally when play is fun.

Play with your child every day. Your child wants to spend time with you— they look up to you and want to learn from yo​u. Playing together also makes the bond between you and your child stronger. This supports their healthy growth and development. Play is fun for adults too.

Here are some tips to encourage play:

  • Make the time: Set aside time every day to play with your child. Schedule play time all through the day. Include other family members whenever possible.
  • Follow your child’s lead: Let your child decide what they want to do and follow their lead. Watch what your child does, then wait and listen as they show you what to do. Remember, every child is different.
  • Make a play box: Keep a list of play ideas and supplies. This will save you from scrambling to find things for your child to do. The variety will keep your child interested. Don’t forget that household items can make fun toys too. For example, turn socks into hand puppets or into balls to play catch.
  • Meet them at their level: Get close to your child and make eye contact when you play together. This shows your child that you’re interested in what they’re doing. If they’re playing on the floor, sit beside them. When you take part in play, your child learns by watching your movements, which increases their self-esteem and confidence.
  • Give encouragement: Notice and comment on what your child is doing. If your child is playing with a red car, avoid telling them what to do with the car. Instead, you could say, “You put the man inside the red car. Where is he going?” Noticing, commenting and giving encouragement helps to improve your child’s self-esteem and language skills.
  • Have fun: Try to minimize distractions when playing with your child —even if you’re busy and have a lot to do. Focus on having fun and letting your child see how much you enjoy play time.

Current as of: September 7, 2018

Author: Healthy Children and Families, Alberta Health Services