A 20-year research study has found educational play in early childhood impacts the child's brain well into their late teens. Results showed the more mental stimulation a child gets around the age of four, the more advanced their language and cognition is. This suggests that the early use of educational toys and games positively influences brain function.
You can begin to play with your child as soon as they are born. Here are some simple ways you can engage with them and aid their progression from an early age.
- Mobiles and sensory stimulation
Make sure you give your newborn something to look at, listen to and feel. This sensory information will stimulate their brain and keep them interested and engaged. It will also help them develop hand-eye co-ordination, as well as attention and listening skills. For example, you could put a mobile above their cot and offer them a rattle, baby mirror or bell to play with.
- Imaginative play
Imaginative play helps children to expand their language and become more creative. Encouraging dressing up, playing with dolls and action figures and holding teddy bear tea parties are just a few ways you can support this kind of play. Get involved by asking them lots of open questions to really stimulate their imagination and support their communication skills.
- Word play and rhymes
Playing with words and rhyming can help children to advance the skills needed for reading and writing. By learning the sounds of words, they are building the crucial foundations from which they will become literate. Car journeys or long walks are excellent opportunities to teach your child songs or nursery rhymes and to play with words.
- Books and reading
You can start reading books to your baby from birth. This will support their emotional well-being and help you to bond with them. They love to hear you speak and will benefit from listening to the sound and rhythm of language. They will also be engaged by the bright colours, patterns and shapes of the pictures in the book.
Reading with your child will also help them to develop an early interest in books and encourage them to read. By running your finger along the words as you read, you will be helping your child learn to relate the way the word looks with the way it sounds.
Puzzles are excellent games that help children to improve their spatial awareness, as well as their attention, focus and early vocabulary. Encourage your child to talk about the picture on the puzzle and the thought process behind where they think the pieces should go.