Play is important at every stage of a child’s development as it is how they learn about the world, and practice what they have learned in a safe environment, however we all know that no two children are the same, and they all develop at their own rate!
Here at the PlayBag Co, we are naturally very interested in how children play and what it is that captures their imagination at all different stages of their life. Our PlayBags are developed to encourage open-ended play and have no edges or bits that can be broken off and swallowed making most of them suitable for all ages – look out for our PlayBags marked “Baby Friendly” which are suitable from birth. (Our PlayBag Garden and The Shire have long pile fabric for the grass and so are not suitable for under 18 months.)
Birth to 18 months
Right from the start babies are learning about their world through play. Their brain is developing rapidly throughout the first year and they are using their senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. It makes sense then that the best toys for this age have a range of textures, colours and noises.
In a basic way, they are also learning about cause and effect, so it is also important that they can interact with their toys, so things such as rattles, and squeakers are great as they teach that the child that when they do this, that happens.
18 months to 3 years
Wow, this is an incredible age! So much is going on inside their brains, and in fact a toddlers brain is twice as active as an adults!!
During this stage, they are developing motor development as well as language and this social-emotional responses.
It is also a very active phase, often with lots of running, jumping and climbing (on everything!). Who has not marvelled at the energy of toddlers? Active games, ride on toys are great for this stage and help develop their gross motor skills.
They also tend to be very curious at this stage about how things work. They are developing their hand-eye co-ordination. One of the simplest and best toys for this stage is simple wooden blocks. They can be anything, and due to their open ended nature expand their minds and creativity – they have certainly stood the test of time!
This is an incredible age for growing minds! During this stage, children’s brains are growing their problem solving skills, improving their memory and learning to interact with others. Imagination and interaction are key parts of this phase as role play and acting things out helps them understand and make sense of their experiences.
As they are mastering day to day skills during this time, any toys which help the act out scenarios are encouraged. Dressing up, tool sets, meical kits, teddies dolls are great for helping them master everyday experiences, while finger puppets and small world play help them act out scenarios.
Make believe games also help them improve their language and social skills as they learn to interact with others and learn how to share.
This phase sees the child refining their motor and sensory development. They will have their own like and dislikes, and are able to have more control over their impulses.
Their attention span increases and so they may get very involved in crafting activities, or imaginative play games. They also tend to like to challenge themselves intellectually.
9 – 14 years
Play continues its important role during this phase although tends towards group activities, sports, games etc.
They are also still increasing and refining their memory, regulating their emotions and increasing their planning and problem solving skills.
They may also have a preference for solitary activities such as reading, music, and creative pursuits. By now, their preferences are pretty much well defined.
Of course this is not definitive, and every child is different and develops at different rates. And where a child has additional needs, the phases may be even more fluid. The main thing is that the child is given freedom to play in a way that suits their needs.
And don’t forget – even as adults – we still need to play!!