eni is a child psychologist with a successful coaching practice in Hampshire. She has over 25 years’ experience and is the author of What Children Need to be Happy, Confident and Successful, a Step by Step Guide to Help Children Flourish. The toddler years are a magical time, important for setting the foundations of a happy, healthy life. Children’s natural energy and curiosity needs to be channelled and supported to help them learn. Play is natures way of helping children learn and communicate successfully so they will become happier, calmer and more confident. For individual advice you can contact Jeni Hooper direct at: www.greatvine.com/jeni-hooper
Speak to me on 0906 194 9663 £1.53/min from a BT landline; calls from mobiles and other networks may vary
Can you give me some tips on buying suitable toys and how do I know what they will teach my child?
Toddler toys are often a great disappointment to parents as children don’t seem to notice them unless you play with it together. Play for a toddler is more exciting when adults make things happen. Your child will watch you press buttons on the activity centre before trying for themselves or maybe take turns with you to post shapes or fit picture puzzles. Playing together is so much fun when you know what your child can do and you help them go a little further. Success is so much better when it is shared. Most toys have a short life span in the toddler years as children out grow them very quickly. Be prepared to recycle toys among friends or via table top sales. Choose toys which are washable and safe if chewed. Wooden toys may look great but toddlers often prefer bright colours. Choose toys which fit with what your child enjoys doing most. They will be a big hit. If they love water, bath toys or small plastic bottles and cups will give endless fun splashing, filling and emptying. Toys are less successful when they are toys chosen for their educational value, especially if that skill is too much of a stretch for your child at the moment. Work with your child’s interests, not only will that be more fun but it will make sure you are building on skills which are starting to grow and develop. Toys that teach letters and numbers can be safely left aside for a few years yet.
My child is more interested in being with me than settling down to play alone. What should I do?
Toddlers like to keep busy and on the move. They like to roam and explore but don’t want to stray too far away from you. These first years are vital for making sense of the world, and children learn by watching, listening and copying what they see around them, so people are far more interesting than toys. You are your child’s first teacher. Gradually your child will spend more time moving away from you to explore, checking in with you to make sure you can see what they are doing. Encourage your child to notice things and talk about them together. Keep your sentences short and your pace of speaking slow to give your child time to take it all in. You can have fun together playing games where you act out little scenes with a doll or soft toy. Watch what your child does with a toy and provide a simple commentary, your child will enjoy the attention and be learning new words too. When you have chores to do, your child can help to put the clothes in the washer or let them “help” you when you cook by having a spoon and pan to stir at a safe distance. Watching and copying helps to build your child’s knowledge and develops their powers of observation and attention, which are essential for learning. Your child is collecting lots of information about the world which will soon become a rich source of imagination and creative play.
Why is play important and how can I encourage my toddler to play?
Play is a child’s work; it is nature’s way of making learning about the world interesting and enjoyable. All children love to play but can get frustrated if they are not successful, that’s where you can be your child’s best playmate. Children’s early play starts with their senses: looking, feeling, tasting, touching and making sounds. Make lots of safe objects available for your child to explore. Later when your child has more language and a better memory they will start to remember little scenes to act out which is the beginning of pretend play. At first they will want lots of repetition, the practice is important and you will pretend to drink many cups of tea before this stage of learning has done its work. When children first start to pretend they are happy to have “real objects” to act out scenes with. You can take a minimalist approach to how much play equipment you need. Small children are easily distracted if there is too much around and can find it hard to concentrate. Too much choice is distracting. One plastic bowl with water and a smaller jug to pour from will grab their attention for longer than a big tub with lots of different containers. Older children need more variety as their imagination grows, but little ones, who are new to play, are happier when you keep it simple.
For more expert information visit: www.greatvine.com/jeni-hooper