Written by the Raising Children Network

Why play is importantDifferent kinds of play build different kinds of learning:

Creativity: when you encourage your child to play, it exercises imagination and helps your child express emotions.
Role play: dressing-up gives your child a chance to act out scenarios that might otherwise be scary or confusing. Messy play (with paints, water or in the sandpit) is a good outlet for emotions.
Coordination: clambering over playground equipment teaches coordination, balance and physical limits.
Cooperation: board games teach your child about taking turns, following the rules, counting and being a gracious loser. These are tough lessons for any preschooler.
Laughs: songs, books, riddles and rhymes tickle your child’s funny bone and teach new words.

Playtime or learning?When you play together, your child is watching what you do. So you can use your own behaviour as a role model to guide your child.

What you do is often much more important than what you say. You are showing your child how to play cooperatively, take turns and share. As you play, you can encourage your child by asking questions and exploring different ways of doing things. And while you might think you’re just spending a lovely afternoon together, your child is actually learning many different skills.

Your child’s creativity will best develop when you give your child lots of freedom. At this age, children might even bend the rules a bit as they play. Try to step back and let them make their own fun. You can be on hand to help, comment and join in when invited.

How to read with your preschoolerBooks open up amazing new worlds and experiences. Stories help your child improve speech, imagination and even counting skills. Reading books together can become a much loved ritual.

-As you read the story, talk about what’s happening in the pictures. Try to guess what might happen next.
-Ask your child to identify familiar things in the pictures, and talk about how they relate to the story. For example, ‘Can you see the moon in this picture? Why is the boy looking at the moon?’
-Count objects in the pictures.
-Just lose yourselves in the story!
The best books are those that stand up to reading over and over, night after night. Books with imaginative illustrations are great at this age as you can weave new stories around the pictures. As they are developing their sense of humour, preschoolers love books with a ridiculous story, even if they’re not sure the story is actually true. Pop-up books are still full of fun surprises at this age.

Your local library or bookshop might be able to recommend some classic picture books.

Read more about the importance of reading stories to your child.

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