Babies Learn when they Play

Mar 10, 2023, 16:54 PM by Dr. Sally Robinson

PLAYUTMBPEDIMany things have changed since almost all of us have become accustomed to the many electronic devices that surrounds us today.  The first electronic “device” occurred in 1745. We know such names as Ben Franklin, Volta, Ampere, Morse, Edison, Hertz, Tesla, Marconi, and Einstein just to name a few that helped discover the power of electricity and expand its many uses.  Since that time, 278 years ago, we are surrounded by electronic devices and are struggling to adjust to its changes to human development and cultures.

As most readers know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no devices except video conferences with family and friends before the age of two.  This also implies that the family has limited access while caring for young children and supervised access for older children.  So what is the parent supposed to do with their time?  Do they know how to play with young children? Has the passing of generations of parents with devices helping with child care lost the knowledge of playing with children?

Play that helps with exercise for babies during the tummy time can be placing yourself or a toy just out of reach of the baby. Or place toys in a circle around the baby to help develop the muscles to roll over or scoot. Or lie on your back and place the baby on your chest so the baby has to lift its head to see your face. Or while keeping watch have younger siblings play with the baby on the floor.  If you are limber enough you can lie on the floor facing the baby and make faces or sing trying to make the baby smile or laugh.

As they get older play “pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake” holding the baby’s hands and putting them through the motions, (words are easily available on the internet).  As they get a little older hold the baby’s foot and wiggle each toe singing “This little piggy went to market” etc.

You can sit in front of the baby and put a colorful hat on your head and say “Look! The hat is on my head”, then remove it and say ”the hat is off”.  Then try it on the baby repeating the words and actions while encouraging the baby to reach for the hat.  Think of all the things you are teaching, words and actions.

As children age parents need to be involved and watch more from the sidelines trying not to control the action but say complimentary things or ask if you can color or build with the blocks. It doesn’t need to be complicated as you could blow bubbles and pop them, playing hide and seek, or tell jokes (why did the little boy throw the clock out of the window?  He wanted to see time fly.)

There is always riding tricycles and bikes, jumping rope, kicking or throwing a ball.  Playing together can improve not only the child’s mood but the parents’ mood.  Playing is not just for children.

by Sally Robinson, MD Clinical Professor
Keeping Kids Healthy
Published 12/2022

Also See:  UTMB Pediatrics - Pediatric Primary Care

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