Skills Your Children Can Gain Through Play and Creative Activities!

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In recent years, the curriculum in schools across the country (and in other parts of the world) has shifted heavily toward common core subjects of reading and math. There has been a very noticeable trend away from play, the arts, and the general subjects. As a result, it is more important than ever that parents and caregivers try to supplement some play and creative activities at home.

The good news is, supplementing these activities at home is easy, and the benefits and skills learned through play and games are many.

Depending on your background in child development, you may or may not be aware that there are several key developmental benefits to getting creative and playing with kids, many of which are outlined here.

Motor Skill Development:

Many of the motions involved in making art (holding a paintbrush or scribbling with a crayon) are essential to developing fine motor skills in young children.

Preschool-aged children are expected to learn to draw a circle and use safety scissors, as using tools such as scissors and eye droppers for activities helps to develop dexterity in children -- a skill that is essential for learning to write.

The pincer grasp is another important developmental milestone that typically occurs during the first year of life, involving the child’s ability to pick up small objects between his thumb and index finger. Simple creative activities such as building and creating with play dough and using eye droppers for science experiments can strengthen this.

If you’re looking to enhance your child’s fine motor skills this holiday season while playing at home, Learning Resources has you covered. Spike, the Fine Motor Hedgehog, is the perfect game to do just that. As they play, children boost their fine motor and early logic skills - all the while strengthening their shape, colour, and number recognition skills along the way! Not to mention, what kid wouldn’t be enticed by an adorable Hedgehog?!

Similarly, kids are often drawn to digging in the dirt, but parents don’t always enjoy cleaning up after them. Why not try the adorable Wriggleworms! Fine Motor Activity Set, wherewith the help of their specially designed Tri-Grip Tong, kids catch and pull worms from the soft foam activity board, building hand strength, pencil grip, coordination, and other essential fine motor skills as they go.

Language Development:

For very young children, making art and playing games provides opportunities to learn descriptive words for colours, shapes, and actions. When toddlers are first starting to talk, for example, parents can do simple art activities and describe the process to encourage their child’s language development (a parent may point to and describe a red crayon to their toddler, while describing to them that this is the tool that we use to draw a “balloon” on a piece of paper). Describing each step of this process while constructing a picture with your child teaches and exposes them to several new words, sights, and sounds – thus building and improving their language development.

Pretend play or role-playing is another great way to enhance a child’s language development. Young children learn by imagining, and pretend play helps your child understand the power of language. In addition, by playing with others, children learn that words give them the means to re-enact a story or organize play. Learning Resources has tons of great tools to aid in pretend play this holiday season, two of which include this Doctor Kit and this Pretend & Play School Set - both are sure to be a hit with your kids!

Problem Solving and Critical Thinking Development:

Even for the very young, the experience of making decisions and choices while playing together is developmentally beneficial. Throughout the play, children are given a chance to think creatively, develop their ideas and be resourceful.

In terms of younger children, the process of deciding which colour to use in a drawing, which tool to utilize during pretend play, or something more sophisticated, there are many benefits to practicing using one’s imagination and working through any problems that arise along the way.

For older children (ages 5+), we can try more complicated games and activities. This Tree House Engineering & Design Building Set allows children to engineer their very own treehouse. They can build railings, platforms, trees and then use problem-solving skills to re-engineer their designs. Kids will love building their tree house-parents will love that they're building critical thinking and STEM skills.

Visual-Spatial Processing Development:

Visual-Spatial processing is the ability to tell where objects are in space and how far objects are from one’s self and one another. For the preschool-aged crowd, scribbling, sculpting with playdough, and threading beads on a string all develop these skills.

If playdough and small parts are not your thing, puzzles are another great tool for developing visual-spatial processing skills. This Magnetic U.S. Map Puzzle is great for the five and older crowd. While working on their fine motor skills and visual-processing development, children will also get a lesson in geography through exposure to state names, landmarks, plants, animals, and more!

Creative and Innovative Thinking:

When children are encouraged to express themselves and take risks while creating and in play, they develop a sense of creativity and innovation that will be important in their adult lives. They can accomplish this through everyday activities and with the help of some fun games and toys.

The Create-a-Maze game by Learning Resources is a toy that does just that - it enables children to make a maze with curvy, colorful pieces by following the designs pictured on the accompanying activity cards. Then, children make a path through the maze, tilting the board and guiding the ball around the obstacles and into the goal. This game is a one-of-a-kind challenge that revs up engineering and critical thinking skills.

The developmental benefits and skills learned through play and games are crucial to your child’s growth. By fostering time and resources towards developing these skills, we ensure our children are reaching their full potential while, at the same time, having fun!