Play is lots of fun for your toddler, but it’s also essential for your child’s emotional, social and physical development. You’re still the best toy for your toddler to play with – and the best toddler games still have you playing a very important part. But at this age, your child wants the time and opportunity to examine everything he sees (peering at every gap in the pavement on the way to the shop!), to explore how this things work (opening and closing drawers, upending toy boxes and putting objects into inviting holes), and to express their active imaginations with pretend games, with themselves in the lead, decision-making role.
Through play children work out who they are and how the world around them works:
Play helps your child develop:
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Imagination and self-expression
- Physical skills, like fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination
- Language and social skills, like cooperation and compromise
- Problem-solving and creative thinking
- Independence and emotional resilience
See why play is so important?
Playing with your toddler and giving them lots of opportunities for free play is one of the best ways you can help them become a confident, empathetic, self-reliant and problem-solving adult.
Unstructured, free play is the best type of play for toddlers. This is play that isn’t planned or organised by a grown-up, and just happens, depending on what captures your child’s interest and imagination, with no prescribed right or wrong way or end result.
Because it’s fun, children often become very absorbed in what they are doing and this helps them develop the ability to concentrate.
Examples of unstructured free play include:
Messy play with sand, water and paints and paper, which is fun and tactile and teaches them that different substances have different properties, for example, that water flows out of plastic cups.
Imaginative play like dressing up, playing with dolls, playing inside a cardboard box or homemade den made from a sheet over chairs, which encourages creativity and self-expression.
Construction play using building blocks like LEGO® DUPLO® to build things teaches them early problem-solving skills and logic by learning to sorting shapes and colours, making big and small bricks fit together and balance on each other.
Physical play like ball games, dancing, running and climbing are all essential for your child to test their body’s strength, flexibility and coordination.
Nicola Butler, chair of the campaigning charity Play England says: “At the toddler stage, play is all about exploring everything around them and working things out for themselves through new experiences. When they’re playing, they are completely absorbed and concentrated and learning all the time. At this age, they also come up with very imaginative ways of using things, and their own wonderful logic. You can show them how things work but let them experiment, without a prescribed ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way.” Who says a colander isn’t fabulous headgear?
Your role in your child’s play
You can be part of your child’s unstructured play – or simply an admiring onlooker. Sometimes all you’ll need to do is point out some play possibilities – the box of dressing-up clothes or the brightly coloured building blocks. Other times they will want your active input, playing alongside them, for example, helping building towers to be gleefully knocked down or being served toy cups of tea. Children of this age love repetition, not just in their favourite books but in the same games, to help them feel safe and and provide a secure base from which to experiment further. Play is about doing things with them that they like, so let your toddler take the lead and be in control, as long as they’re safe.
Play educates, entertains and engages your toddler but it’s also loads of fun. Help your toddler enjoy every minute of their playtime and develop their imagination with LEGO® DUPLO®, the perfect introduction to LEGO® for toddlers and your Partner in Play.