Play is not only fun, but it also makes learning enjoyable for your little one.

Many Singaporean parents tend to overlook the importance of play in favour of “buckling down to serious studying” as they feel the serious route is the most productive way to prep their peewees for the future.

However, what many don’t realise is that play and learning go hand-in-hand in a child’s world. Using toys and fun scenarios is the most natural way for a wee one to develop her language, dexterity, creativity, plus problem solving and social skills — and she’s doing all this without even realising it!

Playing together with your little one also cements your relationship and gives you valuable insight into her behaviour, feelings (how she handles frustration when she faces an obstacle, for instance) and how she perceives the world around her.

Here are some ways to encourage junior to enjoy her childhood by exploring, asking questions and using her imagination. Don’t forget to join in the fun as well — you are your child’s best playmate!

1. Grocery shopping

Don’t “tie” your tyke to the cart as you hurriedly go through your shopping list. Instead, ask her to help you find certain products so that she will learn their names (and how to pronounce them), even if she’s not able to read labels yet. Ask junior to pick up two tins of baked beans and hand them to you (to reinforce numbers); be patient as she figures out how many “two” is. She is not only picking up mathematical skills but also getting familiar with the process of grocery shopping. With a little more training, she might even be able to assist more with the shopping as she grows older.

2. Sorting objects

A shape sorter not only promises hours of fun for your early learner, but it also teaches her how to differentiate a square from a triangle while familiarising herself with different colours. Sit next to her and describe the various shapes and encourage her to find the matching slot. This also teaches your young ’un how to problem solve and hone her fine motor skills.

Role playing boosts your kid’s imagination and creativity while sharpening her interaction skills with adults and her peers.

3. Playing dress up

Don’t wait until Halloween to squeeze your sweetie into an adorable costume. Raid your wardrobe and pull together ensembles that resemble your child’s favourite cartoon characters or occupations. You can put on the outfits and ask your little one to guess who you are or you can both dress up together (Beauty and the Beast, doctor and nurse or teacher and student). You can also head to The City, where your peewee can act like a grown-up for a day as she takes on various professions such as a doctor, fireman, teacher or even her favourite superhero. Role playing boosts your kid’s imagination and creativity while sharpening her interaction skills with adults and her peers.

4. Cooperative play

Take your tot out to the beach and build a sandcastle together. Before the age of 3, children normally play through mimicry and parallel play (playing side-by-side, but not together with their playmates). As they grow older, they will slowly transition to cooperative play and that’s when they need to learn the rules that come with such a scenario. As you build the sandcastle show your little how to take turns with the spade, shovel and bucket, sharing tools and ideas on how to construct the castle while sticking with the theme until it’s done. Junior will learn about teamwork, sharing and seeing a commitment through to the end.

Photo: iStock

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