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Simple Steps: Playing

Different kinds of play help children learn language and literacy skills. Play encourages children to think of objects symbolically: a blanket becomes a cape; a child takes on the role of being “the mommy” while playing house and a living room can become a jungle filled with wild animals. Playing also helps to teach children that one thing can stand for another. In time they will also learn that written words stand for real things. You can help your child develop this practice by:

For Babies

  • Read aloud to your baby. Contrasting colored books, such as black, white and red are easiest for newborns to see. As your baby gets older, you can transition to bright, vibrant colored books.
  • Give your baby soft toys to hold and feel (stuffed animal or soft rattle).
  • Let your baby play with musical toys.
  • Put bright toys near your baby. Encourage them to reach out to them or crawl towards them.
  • Have a space for your baby to crawl and play.

For Toddlers

  • Read books and sing songs with your child.
  • Encourage “messy play” so your child can explore different sensations and textures: scribbling using pencils, crayons and paints; filling and emptying containers with water, dirt and/or sand.
  • Allow your child to play outside during good weather.
  • Stack blocks with your child. Encourage him/her to knock them down.
  • Hang up pictures of familiar people and objects at your child’s eye level. Name them with your child.

For Preschoolers

  • Read books to your child.
  • Practice pretend play with your child. Become different animals, become chefs, and play store together. Talk about what you’re doing.
  • Encourage dramatic play: provide a box of old clothes that can be used for dress-up. Let your child tell stories while he/she dresses up.
  • Provide opportunities for make believe play: join your child in setting up a tea party or picnic in the backyard.
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