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The Matter of Manners

Children naturally imitate older children and adults. Much of their play is imitating what they've observed. Through play, children explore and expand their own abilities. They learn about their world--the objects and people in it. When they build something or master a new skill, they feel proud of their accomplishment.

Play For Babies

Give your baby plenty of opportunities for play. During his first six months, stick to very simple objects and toys: mobiles at the appropriate distance above the cot, simple small unbreakable mirrors, baby toys that can be chewed and held in two little hands. Let him play with rattles and toys that make noise. He will want to bat, turn, drop, and shake objects. As early as four months, your baby can learn about the concept of cause and effect. When he sees you drop a ball on the floor, he will learn it makes a noise. He will want to do the same thing.

Introduce your baby to soft, plastic baby books. He may prefer to eat the books, rather than listen to you read them. But he will view books as a part of his everyday life. Also encourage floor play. This will help develop your baby's motor skills. Lie on the floor with him and face him. He will try to work his arm and neck muscles to be face-to-face with you. Also, put toys just within his reach. Floor gyms are good for encouraging him to reach for things. Let him jump up and down on your lap as you hold his upper body. This will help him discover the strength of his legs. Eventually, it will encourage him to stand.

Play For Toddlers And Preschoolers

As your child gets older, much of his play will be pretend play. Toy kitchens, toolbenches, dolls, cars and trucks, tea sets, wooden train sets, and blocks are all wonderful toys for children this age. Let your child choose what to play, rather than directing his play, as you might with a one-year-old. Unless he engages you in what he's playing, sit back and try not to intervene. If you teach your toddler the one best way to make a sand castle, he won't feel as proud of his own efforts. He may feel that his play doesn't please you, or that you're disappointed in him. Let the motivation for learning something new come from him. Don't push your preschooler to play a board game until he's ready to grasp the rules, for instance. If he doesn't like puzzles, don't urge him to try one. He'll learn the most through play if you let him seek out what's fun and intriguing for him.