learn through play
Fitness and play

Help your toddler learn through play

Although it may look like messy and exhausting, the importance of children’s playtime can never be underestimated. It might not seem like much, but this is the time that your child begins to learn how the world around them works and develop crucial life skills.

By around 24 months old, your child has begun to play pretend and imaginative games with themselves. The simplest of toys can spark your child’s imagination into an array of pretend situations, which lay the foundations of their childhood world.

Your child’s playtime is largely how they express their emotions before they have the capability to do so through words. If your child is experiencing an emotion that they do not understand or that makes them upset, they will most likely express this in some form through play.

Help your toddler learn through play

This is why it is important to stay involved with your toddler’s playtime but not to command the situation or their play environment.

When your child invites you into their imaginary world you need to give them total control. This is their world and showing them that you accept that is a great way to build their confidence as well as showing them that you too are interested in what they are interested in.

5 development games for your two-year-old:

1. Matching colours:

At this stage it is likely that your toddler has begun to recognise different colours. A game you can play to encourage this is to create coloured cards, give them to your child and identify the colour. Then have them identify other objects, in your house or play area, of the same colour, repeating its name.

2. What can you hear?:

Bring your two- year-old to a park or else outside in the garden. Lie down on a blanket and ask them to close their eyes. Ask them to tell you what sounds they hear and if they can describe them. This will help your child to develop both their listening and descriptive skills.

3. Chasing and catching:

To help boost your child’s physical development, chasing and catching is a great source of both exercise and entertainment. Toddlers love to be chased, especially when they know that if they get caught they get hugs and tickles. This allows bonding between you and your child as well as being a fun and healthy game for them.

4. Drawing themselves:

Have your child lie down on top of a large piece of paper or card. With a pencil, trace the outline of their body and then have them fill in their physical features, as they are aware of them. This helps both creative expression as well as body awareness.

5. Story telling:

Telling your child your own made-up stories as well as reading books together is an extremely effective tools in developing your child’s imagination. Making up stories illustrates the basic components of storytelling to your child, such as creating plots and characters. It is also a good idea to make your child the main character in the story. From here, children will then be able to begin making up their own stories.

More you might like:

Why play is important
Spot the signs of hearing loss
Baby’s first swim

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.