Play is fun, but it’s also fundamental to how young children learn. Children learn best by actively doing things — observing, discovering, manipulating and predicting. They are born explorers who build an understanding of life concepts through active investigation of their environment and interaction with their family. Through play, they learn how the world works and practice real-life behaviors. Play is their work.

Play with your children. When you play together, you can help elaborate and extend the play, just remember not to take over! Set the stage for play by providing time, space and great props. Blocks, balls, boxes, and pots and pans make great toys because they are simple — 90 percent child and 10 percent toy. Try to reduce screen time and increase outdoors time. Screen time stifles creativity and imagination. Outdoor adventures — complete with rocks, sticks and mud — do just the opposite.

Play helps children develop social-emotional skills, language and problem-solving skills. When children play, they learn skills that help them get ready to read and get ready for school.

Here's some simple tips:

  • Extend the story experience by doing activities related to a book.
  • Play fun games:  Put 3-5 items on a tray, ask to look at the objects; then cover them. Ask what was there.
  • Mystery bag: Place a familiar object such as a shoe in a pillowcase and tie up the opening with a ribbon. Give the bag to your child to figure out what it is. Make it more difficult as your child gets older. This encourages observation, predicting, and inferring.
  • Bowling fun: Make a bowling alley for your child using empty plastic two-liter bottles and a small ball.

toddler Playing in a box (Ashton and a box)