Playful learning

Playful learning: help you child’s mental and physical development

Use these fun ideas to help your child’s mental and physical development, combining play and learning into playful learning.

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. 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 like this:

Playtime with your toddler
Toddler play ideas
Why play is important


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


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.