The early years of children’s lives provide such a fantastic window of opportunity to develop skills that will last a lifetime. I know this more intimately than ever as I travel through this journey with my almost 2 year old daughter. I take as many opportunities as possible to engage my daughter in active play with balls, scarves and other toys that she is able to throw, kick, roll and catch. I am not looking forward to the day when she might say “Daddy, I don’t want to play with you again, I want to play with my own friends”. I am almost crying thinking about it right now!
However, it will also be a great moment, knowing that I will have done everything I can to provide her with the basic skills she needs in order to be confident; to run, jump, play and engage with other kids in many different environments and situations. All these skills are coming from being given the opportunity to explore and practice in a safe environment where things do not hurt when they hit her, or if she does fall down and scrape a knee she is encouraged to get back up and play again as quickly as possible. All this is being done at home, at every opportunity, and not only once a week in a paid for program.
I know I am in an advantageous position with my job being all about child development through movement skills, and I have spent years learning games and activities to play, but there are many simple things that parents can do to offer the same environment. Things such as having many different shapes, sizes, textures and weights of balls encourages exploration of what each one can do, and having them accessible so that the child can access them whenever they want. Taking some time and thought to put on music and dance, trying to juggle, kicking balls, moving things with other objects, encouraging kids to reach and grab things by themselves and so much more can be beneficial for development.
The best toy a child can have is a parent that is willing to put everything else aside and play with them. If you can add in some balls and scarves to the mix then all the better, and you will save yourself money by not having to buy expensive, flashy toys that only keep the attention of your little one for a few weeks. Leave that to the grandparents!
Get some great ideas of activities to play at PISE’s Mini Movers program. This is a parent and tot program you can register for here.
~Chris Wright, Physical Literacy Coordinator at PISE and proud father of a beautiful, little girl.