Written By Georgie Bradshaw (Guest Writer)
THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY
I’ve always loved play and seen the huge importance it has on child development. I also always knew I wanted to work with kids so went to study Early Childhood Studies in Uni. Since graduating I’ve worked in the children’s hospital, with children’s Physio and I’m now working as a community nursery nurse (when not on mat leave).
When I got pregnant I was so excited thinking ahead to all the play I could do with him/her, thinking about all the developmental milestones they would meet that I’d been taught about & after years of playing with my friends kids and meeting families through my job and helping them with their children I just couldn’t wait to experience it all for myself!
Fast forward 9 months… it’s been the most amazing 9 months! My little girl is such a dream and we have had so much fun with messy play, sensory play & watching her explore and learn all about the world around her.
She was born in May 2020 – the height of 1st lockdown. I remember in April when she was due just hoping & praying that she would be late so maybe we would be out of lockdown by then (yes I know, very naive of me!) She did listen though and was 2 weeks late! But we all know how lockdown went.. 12 months later and we are still here! (But with the hope that this will be over soon!!)
The first few months were so hard, not being able to surround our little girl with our family and friends, grandparents having to meet their first grandchild at a distance on the driveway.. it still breaks my heart thinking about it and it’s taking me a long time to grieve. I initially felt such grief about it but felt I couldn’t say that out loud & others have gone through so much more but I’ve come to accept that we have all lost so much and we all deal with things in different ways and it is actually OK to grieve what we have lost and missed out on because of lockdown.
The fact we have missed out on so many baby classes has been tough, missing out on the benefits they have not only for our babies but for us parents too! The meeting other parents, being able to talk to other parents going through similar things & having that connection!
Play is such an important part of child development, and asides from knowing all of the benefits play has for babies and children it has also really helped me and my mental health. Planning different activities and thinking of creative ways to help C with her development has given me a focus and has kept my brain working!
Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of days where motivation is low – I definitely don’t set up wonderfully looking play everyday!! And that’s ok too! In fact sensory play can be pretty much anything! Think, the feel of your carpet or any kind of textures you have in your house, the feel of grass (when its warm enough to be barefoot on grass!) Smelling some flowers, simple water play – it really doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate! And for young babies – all they need is you! Your face – they love to see your facial expressions, your voice – they love it when we sing no matter how bad we sound! Or some simple sensory items such as ribbons or a feather.
Why do I love sensory play so much?
From birth babies are learning to explore the world around them through all the different senses – touch, sight, sound, smell & taste.
Providing opportunities to use these senses is crucial to brain development.
Babies naturally use their senses to explore – anyone else’s baby mouth everything?! This is their way of figuring things out.
Exploring different textures is a great way of using sensory play but as will anything that will stimulate their sense of touch, sight, hearing, smell & taste (this is also why I love including messy food play!)
There are so many benefits to sensory play – it helps babies to explore the world around them & their body (for example understanding their different body parts)
The great thing about sensory play is that you really can let your imagination go wild and use pretty much everything (providing its safe – and you always supervise them).
– treasure baskets (a firm favourite) this does not need to be fancy or cost you anything – just find some items from around the house and put them in a basket (or a bag or box) and let your child explore. Let them take the lead and explore it & talk about the texture or what they are playing with, this will also aid their language development.
Some examples of what you could include – exfoliating gloves, sponge, feather, flannel, wooden spoon, brush, a spiky ball…
– sensory bottles/bags for some mess free sensory play
Fill bottles with things like water and food colouring or glitter, pompoms, coloured rice, pasta – glue the lid shut and let your child explore.
Fill zip lock bags with paint for mess free painting or old cereal like Weetabix, tape them shut & let them explore. Recently I taped the bags to the floor to let my daughter crawl around the room to each one.
– get outside – I love using anything for sensory play but nothing beats exploring ‘real play‘ so letting them explore the grass or let them feel real food such as fruit.
– black & white play for young babies – in the first 3 months babies can only see around 8-11inches away from them & their vision is limited to white/black/grey as it has not yet fully developed. They love to look at high contrasting images so doing some tummy time on a black and white blanket or muslin or putting a black and white book in front of them is great for their development.
messy play – again there’s so much you could do. I love using a tuff tray for this.
• Rainbow rice/pasta & let them go wild!
• Oats/any type of cereal
• Edible paint (yogurt and food colouring)
• Edible sand (flour & coconut oil)
• Chickpea foam (blend the water from a can of chickpeas & some food colouring)
• Water play (and some fruit/toys into the mix)
Babies and children really are so fascinating! And I’m so thankful for my girl for bringing me joy & helping me get through this crazy time!
If you want more ideas of play for your little ones I post some ideas over on my page @Littles_Journeyandme