While playing, infants and toddlers naturally explore objects and engage in activities that stimulate their senses and help develop their motor skills. A great deal of research has been conducted recently, focusing on play and movement, and their links with intellectual development. For example, it has been found that movement is essential in promoting normal growth of the mental function—and that when a child plays, sensory-motor experiences feed directly into his or her brain's pleasure centers. It has also been found that without play opportunities, motor coordination and timing will generally fail to develop appropriately.
This is why it is important to stimulate cognitive development early on by providing plenty of opportunities for active play. The first part of the brain to develop controls the senses and movement. The part of the brain that processes movement is also involved in learning—movement and learning have constant interplay. And it just so happens that the first type of play infants and toddlers engage in is referred to as 'exercise' play. This occurs in the sensorimotor stage of development, which consists of repeating actions to adapt and understand, to cause an effect and to confirm a newly acquired skill.
Remember, in addition to developing the body, movement also strengthens all key areas of a child's brain. So while playing, be sure that your child is on the move!
Kathleen Alfano Ph.D., Former Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price®
Parenting advice is given as a suggestion only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider.