"Play Is The Work of the Child” Maria Montessori
Research shows that 75% of brain development occurs after birth, most of it in the early years.
Early experiences and relationships are vital as they both stimulate and influence the development of your child's brain.
These experiences influence the development of motor skills, language, socialisation, emotional well-being, creativity, problem solving and learning ability.
Play, both structured and unstructured, has a vital role in this.
Children get the most enjoyment out of an activity (or toy) when it matches their developmental needs and interests.
If you’re considering showing your child a new activity or teaching them a new skill or buying a toy a handy way of evaluating its suitability is to use the Goldilocks Principle ‘not to hard, not too easy, just right’.
When an activity is too hard or too easy the child becomes either bored or frustrated and neither is ideal for the child.
Hold back the praise
Tasks that are just right result in the child experiencing great pleasure and satisfaction with their efforts.
The joy comes from within and they don’t need praise, sometimes praise can take away some of the joy of achievement from the child.
I know it’s hard to hold back as praise is entrenched in our culture (that’s an article for another day), wherever possible in place of praise remark on the effort, the involvement, the joy.
We all make mistakes
Of course as adults it’s impossible to get it right every time and sometimes we introduce an activity that we soon see is too hard.
When that happens, do what you can to salvage the situation, put it away and make a mental note to reintroduce it again later.
It’s important to remove things the child can’t do as if they just fiddle around with it when the time is right the task will have lost its appeal.
The child may be attracted by the colours or textures so you can introduce these in a different, developmentally appropriate, form.
It's helpful to go through your child's toys on a regular basis to check that they are still appropriate.
Also, you don’t need to put everything out at once.
If they’re not using something put it away for a while and bring it out again in a couple of weeks.
Take your lead from the child by stepping back and observing their skills and interests, especially those things they’re desperate to 'help' with or to do by themselves.
Tailor the job
A word of caution here, it’s important to tailor the job to your child’s developmental skills so your little one is likely, with a little practise and effort, to experience success and build a sense of competence.
It’s important to look at tasks with the knowledge of an adult and not be too swayed by enthusiasm.
Some tasks or toys may be way to complex for your little one even when they are very keen.
They may however be ready for part of the task.
Think carefully about the steps involved and make a judgement based on your knowledge of both the child and the task.
Look objectively and observe
By looking objectively and observing which toys are used and which ones are not, at which activities they most enjoy and which they don't, you will begin to get a deeper understand their interests, skills and developmental stages. If you have a good understanding of the Sensitive Periods that too will help.
This valuable knowledge will help you to plan positive, meaningful activities and life will be more fun for everyone!
Enjoy these wonderful early years where each day the miracle of developing life unfolds before you.