The Power of Play from Birth to Age Three

Posted on June 26, 2020

by Kaitlin Weiss

Children want to understand how the world works, and they can do this through play. One of the most important ways to support your child’s development is by playing with them. Your child will let you know what interests them, so follow their lead. He or she will want to play even more when they see how engaged you are in playing with them. You are your child’s favorite toy. There are no rules when it comes to playing with them. Learning takes place when they are engaged and having fun.


What you can do:

  • Safety First – Make sure toys don’t have parts that fit all the way in your child’s mouth. As your child learns to move, get down on their level to see what they can reach. It will lead to fewer “no’s,” which makes everyone happier.
  • Watch and Wait – See what your child is trying to do. You want your child to be able to accomplish their goal so give enough support for them to reach it.
  • Follow the Leader – Children are different and like different things. Some love lots of noise while others find it overwhelming. Some like to move around while others are more still. Others like to use their hands to figure out how things work. To figure out what your child likes best follow their lead. They will let you know what they like and don’t like.


Playtime for babies birth to 12 months:

  • Back and Forth – Coo and talk to your baby. Encourage your baby to copy you and you can imitate your child’s sounds and wait for them to respond. Show them how to turn the pages of a book or that when you push a button on a toy it will make a noise.
  • Sing and Dance – They love to hear your voice, no matter what it sounds like, so sing a favorite song. Listen to different kinds of music and dance to see what your baby likes best.
  • Play Ball – Give them a colorful, textured ball and let them explore it. Let them figure out what they can do with a ball. Eventually they will learn to roll it, drop it in a basket, and take it out again.


Playtime for young toddlers 12 to 24 months:

  • Running, Climbing, and Action Games – Go to the park or use your backyard so your toddlers have a chance to run, climb, and play outside. You could also build an indoor or outdoor obstacle course. “Ring Around the Rosie” and “London Bridge” are great for toddlers to move, sing, listen, take turns, and cooperate.
  • Let’s Do It Again…and Again…and Again – Toddlers learn how things fit together and work through repetition. They may want you to read the same story and sing the same song night after night. To learn about full and empty and in and out, they may fill and dump a pail over and over again. This gives them a sense of security and control over their world and it helps them master new skills.
  • Busy Hands – Toddlers use their hands and fingers for pushing buttons, opening boxes, and turning pages because they love to make things work. They may also like to finger paint, color, play with play dough, or squeeze water out of a sponge.


Playtime for older toddlers 24 to 36 months:

  • Say It With Music – “Statue,” “Freeze,” and “Hokey-Pokey” are fun musical games that offer opportunities to listen and follow directions. They allow children to exercise and move their bodies and also teach about words and sounds. Musical instruments can add to the fun.
  • Quiet Play – Children’s play can also be a quieter activity such as looking at books, listening to stories, and drawing pictures. These things can build a child’s imagination and language skills. Some soothing and relaxing activities for your child may include playing with sand, mud, or dough. Paper, crayons, and paints will let them create with their hands.
  • Act It Out – Provide dress-up clothes and other props to encourage fantasy or imaginative play. You can use hats, scarves, backpacks, bowls and containers, music makers, and whatever else you can find around the house. Do it with them because you can help them expand their ideas and learn about their thoughts and feelings as they act things out through play.


Remember, as an adult, you make a difference in how much your child learns through play. So play with your child. See what your child is trying to do or figure out. Provide the support your child needs to accomplish their goal. Present new challenges for your child when you notice they are ready. Be spontaneous and have fun!


Be sure to join us online for our Play & Learn Storytime for babies and toddlers on Thursdays at 10:00 am and our Stories & More Storytime for preschoolers on Fridays at 10:00 am to learn more about the power of play.

Kaitlin Weiss

Kaitlin Weiss

Kaitlin (Kaiti) worked as a K-5 Media Specialist at two elementary schools in Hammond for 13 years before she became a member of the Community Engagement Team. She enjoys storytimes with the babies, going out into the classroom to teach lessons, and creating fun programs for the community. When not reading a book you can find her spending time with her two nephews, family, and friends, traveling to new places, crafting, and binge watching TV shows.
Translate »