As a child care worker, understanding how a child develops between the ages of 2-5 is important because you can help the child learn through play. Some of the most long-lasting effects on personality, vocabulary, interpersonal skills and imagination develop through games. Prior to going to school and learning from teachers and peers, children learn through games. Constructive and directed activity at this age enables development in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
Development through Play – Types of Play
Children engage in different forms of play, and while they don’t understand this categorization, it is important that parents and child care professionals do, so that they can direct the activity and ensure that children are exposed to and can learn from games. Children play either on their own, with other children, or with adults. Games take the form of activities that involve exercise and movement, or activities performed while seated or sprawled out, with limited motion. Games also include use of toys, props, imagination, and children’s tools or play-items like beads or coloring books.
Learning Through Games – Life Skills and Play
The strength, energy and fitness levels of children increase when they play in a healthy manner. Exercising muscles, developing active habits and burning up excess energy that could turn destructive are the more obvious benefits oflearning through games. Play time is also a good time to teach children about life skills like good manners, appropriate behavior, obeying rules, sharing and team playing, cooperation, and concepts of winning and losing. Vocabulary, speech, curiosity, problem-solving, cognitive and intellectual understanding are some of the abilities that develop through play that is guided or planned.Behavioral problems such as temper tantrums, fussy eating and refusal to perform tasks like using the toilet appropriately or getting dressed can be solved through patient play.
Learning through Play – Tips on Learning Games
- Role playing and dress-up activities help children develop their imagination, and teach them about different roles in society
- Sorting, building and fitting shapes and blocks help children understand concepts of color, shape, size and relative concepts like inside/outside, bigger/small, above/below
- Singing and reciting rhymes and songs develops vocabulary, speech patterns and introduces new ideas
- Story telling encourages children to pay attention and to ask questions
- Painting, cutting and pasting, drawing or coloring and jigsaw puzzles develop motor skills and coordination, as well as teaching about colors, shapes and new objects
Directing and guiding play activities are an important part of a caregiver’s role. Children can often lose focus, put themselves and others at risk, or just get bored while playing. A caregiver is there to side-step these issues and lead children towards healthy development through games. A good child care professional knows when to let children play on their own, and when to control or monitor a game. A simple “What are you doing?” question during a game can lead to the child having to think through a concept, use vocabulary to explain it, and develop interpersonal interaction skills in replying.