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Parental Involvement in Play
Family members are the first and most important influences on the learning of children at all ages. Whilst parents are usually the strongest models with the greatest impact, grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends can also act as role models, mentors, and encouragers. Children are also influenced by input from peers, neighbours, teachers and others.

Research suggests that the most creative children are those who have adult involvement in their play. The richest play can occur when an adult takes an active role and plays alongside the child, rather than just providing the toys or supervising the activity.

Becoming part of our children's play activities may seem a little daunting because we are taught, as adults to give up childish things and "grow up." As adults we have the answers to a range of difficulties that children may encounter when trying to make sense of the world through play. Although it is important that children find solutions to problems adults can give clues to help children before they become frustrated and leave the activity. To help children to get the most out of their play experiences try some of the following ideas:

Observe: Watch your child closely will give you an insight into his or her skill levels and favourite activities. This will allow you to choose toys and activities that are appropriate for your child and which will delight them.
Insert a pic of child and adult playing together

Participate: Children love to include parents in their play and will often allocate you a role in their activity. Always allow your child to remain in control of the activity so that they can ultimately control and determine the direction of the play.

Stretch boundaries: It is important that when playing with young children we see the world through the child’s eyes and see no boundaries for the toys we are using. Rediscover the child inside yourself and let go of the adult notion that there is only one way to play with a toy.
Have Fun: The fantastic thing about playing is that anyone can have a go at it and the outcome is always successful. Playing creates time for you and your child to feel good about yourselves and each other so the most important thing you can do is to simply enjoys yourselves and have fun together.
Choosing Children’s Toys

Toy Selection:
Parents have an important role in choosing good toys and in helping their child to get the most out of them. This section offers some suggestions for suitable toys for children of different ages. The suggestions will help to guide your selection but it is important that you consider your individual child’s interests, abilities and limitations.

Babies: Birth to One Year
Young babies learn a great deal through the five sense: smell, taste, sound, touch and sight, therefore toys that provide a small baby with opportunities to learn about size, shape, sound, texture and how things work will develop concentration.
Choose toys that:
  • have pieces that are too large to swallow
  • are lightweight for handling and grasping
  • have no sharp edges or points
  • are non-toxic
Brightly coloured, lightweight toys offering many textures stimulate young babies. For very young babies, toys to look at and listen to are best, even unborn babies often show a response to music. Rattles, squeaky toys and baby gyms are ideal for grasping when the baby is ready to hold objects.

A baby who is sitting up is ready for blocks with pictures, letters, numbers or bright colours. Nesting cups or boxes and stacking rings are also favourites. Babies at this age will enjoy handling their first sturdy picture books showing familiar objects and they adore listening to stories being read. Balls and push-pull toys are good choices when a baby can crawl and walk.
Toddlers: One to Three Years
A busy toddler needs toys that encourage active physical play-- especially things to ride and climb on, such as a low tricycle, sit and ride toys, slides, small climbing frame etc. Outdoor toys such as large balls, inflatable toys, a paddle pool and a sandbox with digging tools are all popular choices.

As toddlers approach their 2nd birthday they often enjoy make-believe play and begin to imitate the adult world around them. This can be encouraged with role-play toys such as play food, appliances and utensils, child- sized play furniture, simple dressing-up clothes and dolls. This interest in the adult world will continue to be understood through this type of play for many years.

Children in this age group are also particularly interested in sorting and fitting toys, which might include different kinds of blocks, simple puzzles. Musical instruments delight young children who will love to play with tambourines, toy pianos, horns and drums, as well as listening to music particularly rhyming songs.

Stories are very important at this age as children are starting to develop an awareness of letters and words on the pages. Pointing at the words as you read will help children to learn that the words on the page are associated with the spoken words and that we always start reading from the left hand side of the page.
Pre-School: Three to Five Years
Pre-school children are masters of make-believe. They like to act out grown-up roles and create imaginary situations. Costumes and equipment that help them in their pretend worlds are important at this stage. Some of the many possibilities include pretend money, play food, a toy cash register or telephone. Small play such as a make-believe village, fort, circus, farm, gas station or restaurant, a puppet theatre and play with dolls and doll furniture also allows for extensive imaginary play.

In a child's world, a favourite toy is both a companion and protector. Dolls and teddy bears have been known to calm even the most emotional child and them to cope with difficult moments.

Transportation is fascinating to young children. Trucks, cars, planes, trains, boats, bicycles and tractors are all fun at this age and beyond. Larger outdoor toys that may include gym equipment, wheeled vehicles and a first two-wheeled bicycle with helmet and training wheels, are appropriate now.

To help children to develop concentration, concepts of rules and turn taking (which can be very difficult for children of this age) introduce board games, electronic toys and word matching games aimed specifically for pre-school children.

Some of the more traditional toys such as construction sets, books and tapes, craft sets, letter and number sets, puzzles, stuffed toys and dolls continue to be popular with this age group.
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