PLAYING TO GROW – GROWING TO PLAY
Infants to three: Sensory motor skills, near relations, growth of thinking skills
Play is much more than just fun, it is essential to growth. Adults marvel at those first steps, but they should marvel more at the effort behind them. The young brain is capable of more than the body around it reflects. And this is often communicated through body language, as spoken language is very limited in the first years of life. So the body is the fundament of understanding, and the bodily competences are best developed in play
In the playground, through playful trial and error, every aspect of the young child’s physical ability finds support, from cross-coordination, to a sense of balance and spatial awareness. The playful physical activity lays the foundation of all the child’s interactions with the world, through the sensory motor skills, right through to making sense of the world and training thinking skills.
It’s important to remember just how small toddlers are, and it is vital to interpret their world through a size-appropriate environment that engrosses, comforts and inspires. Therefore, the sizes, shapes, functionalities and aesthetics of the playground need to be infant and toddler appropriate to harvest the many benefits of playground play.
The good infant and toddler playground allows for connecting with peers and enjoying the responses of adults. The peer-to-peer and child-adult rapport in playgrounds considerably opens up the opportunity for expanding communication, language and literacy skills, which helps the child understand the world better and, not least, express their own wishes better.
Despite limited spoken language, toddlers engage significantly with others, through playful communication. They invent repetition games, they mimic others and even participate in make-believe play. This builds a foundation for friendships that can be supported through dramatic play – with for instance, thematic play equipment and playhouses. But it can also be supported in play equipment that invites cooperation, such as seesaws, stomach swings or features that require eye contact and encourage gathering together in small groups.
This toddler play piece is fabulous for supporting cognitive and social learning in the youngest players: the manipulative activities are paired to support parallel play. There are many tactile and moveable items to support the emerging logical thinking skills and the understanding of object permanence: chicken, that when moved, reveal eggs inside them; sand scoops that run in grooves and can transport materials. The themes of the horse and carriage invite role play and the horse is a popular destination for the slightly older toddlers in particular.