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Benefits of hands-on play include:
- Family interaction and connection
- Improved mood and stress reduction
- Getting you and your child to move your bodies
- Stimulation of the brain
- Helping your child develop social skills
- Helping your child express herself
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and toy company Melissa & Doug have teamed up in a "Power of Play" alliance to offer inspiring ideas for encouraging play during these difficult times.
"Play doesn't have to be complicated," says AAP president Sally Goza. "Take a few minutes during breaks in the day to get a little silly with your children. Reading books, cooking together, exploring nature areas, or finding creative ways to connect with loved ones far away are all great ways to give the entire family an emotional boost."
Here are play ideas for different ages, courtesy of the Power of Play:
Babies and toddlers
- Try back-and-forth interactions. Try playing peek-a-boo, mimicking each other's sounds, blowing and catching bubbles, stacking cups or blocks, or simply rolling a ball to each other.
- Read and sing together. While reading together, point out pictures, notice your child's gaze, and comment on what captures her attention (even if she's a baby). Put on a silly or theatrical voice. Ask toddlers to count or name items on the page. You can even enlist grandparents or other relatives to read stories over video chat while you and your child cuddle.
- Narrate what you're doing. Talking out loud as you do everyday tasks such as preparing meals or getting your kids dressed helps build children's vocabulary and communication skills. You could also take your child for a walk in the neighborhood, if possible, and talk about what you see and feel.
At this age, your child loves to try on different roles (like artist, teacher, or police officer), master new ideas, and feel in control. Playing and pretending is a great way to help him express emotions that he may not be able to communicate in words. Ideas for this age group include:
- Create art from natural objects. You could:
- Collect stones, pebbles, sticks, and fallen petals and leaves from your yard or nearby natural areas. Then arrange them in beautiful patterns.
- Try pressing flowers and leaves in the pages of heavy books for about a week, and then use them to create a picture.
- Take a photo or video for a show-and-tell with grandparents or loved ones who are far away.
- Dress up and role-play. Go through your closets and pull out clothes and accessories for dress-up. Create different characters with their own voices and backstories. You could even encourage the whole family to come to a meal in character.
- Take an adventure walk. Come up with fun themes for a walk (while maintaining social distancing). You could:
- Hunt for the teddy bears and rainbows some families are placing in windows.
- Pretend to be detectives on the lookout for various clues (a red door, a bicycle, or a small dog).
- Create a scavenger hunt with objects for your child to find.
At this age, your child is old enough to be more aware of what's happening, and she may be feeling anxious. Play can help your child feel more in control in a world that feels unpredictable.
- Play board games or card games. These have predictable rules and may be comforting to your child.
- Refresh your space. Get your child to reorganize a room or closet, or create decorative arrangements or displays of small toys to beautify areas of your home.
- Reverse roles. Instead of you teaching your child, let your child take on the role of teacher and instruct you how to solve a math problem, play a game, or talk about a book she has read.
- Do some creative cooking together. You could:
- Give all family members the same set of ingredients and have each create their own unique recipe.
- Have a themed meal night with each family member responsible for one course.
- Enlist a grandparent or other relative to teach a favorite recipe in a virtual cooking class.
For more play ideas, check out BabyCenter's Games and Activities page. If you've got a teen in the house, here are some ways to help them through this difficult time.
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