Come play with me


Neena Jacob

I was on a New Delhi to Goa flight and was delighted to see a young couple with their baby daughter, about 18 months, and a nanny in my aisle. I was so looking forward to her antics and interacting with the toddler, thinking my flight to Goa would not be so dull after all. The little one was a real dictator – yelled, howled and kept quiet only when given the iPad. The little one was glued to it for the entire journey and the parents and nanny were left in peace.

I recalled the planning that went into a lowly train journey in the years gone by with my kids. Books, colours, toys, strings and so much more; we used to tell them stories, play guessing games and go ‘koo-chook-chook’ with them. These made for some of my happiest memories and the kids remember these games and the learning that went with it.

A definition of play from the 21st century comes from the National Playing Fields Association (NPFA). The definition reads as follows, “Play is freely chosen, personally directed, intrinsically motivated behaviour that actively engages the child.”  Simply put it is what young children do when they are not told what to do by adults.

 According to research, play can improve children’s abilities to plan, organise, get along with others and regulate emotions. It helps with language, math and social skills and even helps kids cope with stress.

So now that we are in the terrible two’s let’s see what games we can play with our little ones for the right development

 To increase their self-awareness, self-esteem and self-respect.

Allow them to make party meals on their own like smearing jam or cheese on a biscuit, pouring juice getting them to call Mum and Dad for a party and don’t forget to praise the meal. Get them to later call friends and cousins.

They can also play help you in the garden or sort clothes as white and not white.

***To improve and maintain physical health, coordination, balance

Animal movements like hopping like a frog, galloping like a horse, slithering like a snake and flying like a bird.

Keep the balloon off the ground -They just have to try and not let the balloon touch the ground.

Finger painting or stringing beads

Running away from a monster (Daddy/Mummy can growl and chase them)

Hopscotch – a simple variation where you can draw a leaf in one square a bird in another and so on and they hop forward to the bird and back to the frog.

Flying a kite – Gives them patience and persistence.

Musical chairs – They learn to lose and get the spirit of competition.

 To give them an opportunity to develop social skills

Have a staring contest (develops eye contact)

Emotion charades – The child looks at you and guesses whether you are sad, angry, sick, etc.

 To allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills

Praise them for pouring juice into a cup by saying: “It’s great you can pour juice. Some spilled but it’s okay, mummy/daddy and you can clean up together.”

Let’s pair the shoes

Let’s water the plants

Let’s learn to cycle 

Let’s bounce /catch a ball

Let’s plait Mama’s hair or tie your laces

Let’s sing /dance

 To promote imagination and creativity

Enact scenes from their favourite story like the Panchatantra story of the Cap Seller and the Monkey or The Crocodile and The Monkey, or any other story they like.

Play dress up: Give them a shawl, your heels a string of beads, an umbrella and let them act like nana or the poder carrying a basket and tooting.

Arrange the plates on the table

To offer opportunities for children to mix with children of different backgrounds and races: Take them to places here they could meet and interact with kids their age, encourage their friendship but be close enough for them to share their problems and feel confident.

To build resilience through risk taking and challenge, problem solving and dealing with new and novel situations, let them choose their play, make their rules and going out of their comfort zone. For eg:  Putting all the pillows on the chair and saying they are mountain climbers or trying to walk in mummy’s or daddy’s shoes.

Provide opportunities to learn about their environment let them climb trees, play with stones, chase butterflies, etc.

To develop a sense of rhythm by skipping to music – sing action songs like the wheels of the bus go round and round.

Remember most of baby’s development happens in these first few years. That is why it is important that they explore their environment, experience sights, sounds and textures. Their interaction with others is essential for learning. Screens are everywhere and our children are exposed to them right from birth. Psychologists world over are unanimous in their verdict of no screen time before 18 months, however, video chatting with family and friends is permitted. A child up to three years should not watch more than an hour a day and that too with a parent or caregiver. Use this time to interact with your child or watch an educational age appropriate programme.

Don’t get your toddler hooked on TV shows.

(Writer is a volunteer in local schools and a trustee with Sethu)