Play as the Foundation of Learning and Development

“To play with a child is to love a child.” – Vince Gowmon

I am a mother to Bauer (8 years old), Rafael (7 years old), and Arwen (3 years old). The most challenging part of being a stay-at-home mother is raising the kids. This includes teaching them the right values and ensuring that they develop well.

Back in 2014 and 2015, I met Teacher Lex, an occupational therapist, and Teacher Bernice, a speech therapist, respectively. They taught me a lot about child development.

According to them, the peak of a child’s development is at ages 2 to 4. At the age of 5, the rate of brain development becomes slower. That is why as early as possible, we should give them all the stimulation they need. This involves using all the 5 senses to help them in their cognitive, motor skills, communication skills, and social skills development. We should allow our children to experience things, letting them see, hear and touch things. The best way to teach a child is through play.

A child’s play mainly involves sorting, pointing and matching. Below are some toys which I find very helpful in our children’s development.

Books, Flashcards, Shape Sorters

For cognitive skills development, books, flashcards, and shape sorters are very helpful in familiarizing our kids with the basic shapes, colors, numbers, animals, and letters of the alphabet. We can do echo talk, allowing them to repeat what we say, in identifying the image while pointing at it. We can also imitate the sounds created by the animals. We can also try to use two-words. Instead of just saying “apple”, we can say “red apple”.

Flashcards are also a good alternative to books. They are easier to handle and variations of play can be done. We can lay the cards on the table or hang them on tied ribbons so that we can add tasks like “get the letter A” or “give me the letter A”. We can also ask the kids to place the cards inside the basket or under the table. In this way, we are also teaching them to follow simple instructions.

Shape sorters can be used as early as 2 years old. Shooting the shapes on the matching holes helps develop the eye-hand coordination of children. It develops their problem-solving skills by finding the right place to shoot the shapes. Aside from learning the different kinds of shapes, we can also use these in teaching how to count or sort the shapes by color. My children and I also trace the shapes on a piece of paper to color or do matching games.


Our kids can solve a 25-piece puzzle by age 3. Playing puzzles is also good in developing the eye-hand coordination, orientation, color recognition, and concentration of our kids. We can see how they develop their problem-solving skills as they rotate the pieces to find the right orientation.

Building Blocks and Play-pretend Toys

Building blocks and play-pretend toys develop kid’s imagination. Play-pretend toys such as a cook set can be used in teaching object functions to kids. At the age of 6, our boys can follow instructions in building blocks and Lego. And afterward, they are building different structures on their own. This way we are teaching them to be creative and independent.

Coloring Books and Coloring Materials

As early as 2 years old, we can already teach our children to grasp a pen or crayon and scribble. A simple tracing activity improves the fine motor works of children. Let them experience different mediums in writing and coloring. Tell them “show it to daddy/mommy” after they have finished an artwork. This will give them a sense of achievement.

Our children are always excited when they receive coloring books, crayons, coloring pens and water color. Arwen can now color drawings precisely, with one stroke. And Bauer and Rafael become imaginative from coloring and painting drawings to even drawing their comic books.

Bike and Balls

For motor skills development, ball and bike are ideal. A variety of play can be done with a ball. We can introduce different actions such as shoot, throw, catch, kick, roll, pass and dribble. Our little girl, Arwen, loves to shoot and kick a ball. We observe that her legs and arms are very strong.

Our children have been riding a bike (tricycle then) since they were 2 years old. At a young age, we could see what tactics they would do to avoid bumping or hitting. And it is nice seeing Bauer and Rafael ride a bigger bike without training wheels. They have developed balance and self-confidence.

These toys are only our tools to help in our children’s development. The most important thing we can do is to help them develop their social skills. Pause from our busy daily lives. Share at least 30 minutes of full engagement with them. Talk to them. Tell them stories. Sing with them. Give them positive input. Look into their eyes and smile at them. Hug them to let them feel that they are secured. Let them feel that they are loved. Play with them.

by: Vernadette Ani

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