Along with good nutrition, proper hygiene, and a well-kept schedule of doctor visits, children also need regular and imaginative play to have a nurturing childhood. It may seem frivolous and unnecessary to busy parents, but encouraging a lifestyle of play will help children transition into a healthy and fulfilling adulthood.
For toddlers and preschool-aged children, play often helps develop motor skills, balance, coordination, and strength. Whether your child is building with blocks, playing hopscotch, or catching a ball, he is slowly learning the movements and gaining the strength he'll need as he grows older. Encourage your child to engage in active play by getting involved in his play times. Initiate a game of tag in your backyard, or jump into a sandbox with him and start digging together.
Young children often use role-playing games to understand and decipher the emotions they encounter in everyday life. Kids like to recreate environments that they are familiar with, such as family life or a school classroom, giving themselves the opportunity to take on a different role such as a parent or teacher. This kind of play allows the child to step into someone else's shoes and understand their interactions from a different angle.
Imaginative fantasy-based play also gives your child the opportunity to explore and express their emotions in a safe way. When your child is upset or angry, encourage him to try some kind of creative play as an outlet for his or her feelings.
It is important for your child to not only play on their own or with you, but also to spend time playing with other children their own age. These interactions will help your child to develop the social skills he or she will need school, or later in the workplace. Give your children room for free play when they are playing with friends and allow him or her to try to work out conflict before stepping in to help.
Regular check-ups at the pediatrician and dentist are also important for a growing, healthy child. Visit the Hillsborough County Health Department website to find out about free and inexpensive resources for healthcare in Hillsborough County.