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Toddler and carer playing with bricks on floor together.

Get down and play

19 October 2021 | State Library of Queensland

Imagine for a moment what life looks like from where your child stands. As a small person in a very big world, they spend most of their time looking up at you! So when your little one wants you to play, they’re not just asking for companionship - they’re asking you to meet them at their level, on their terms. Getting down on the floor to play (if you still can!) is so important for both of you. Here’s why: 

It builds language skills 

When you pretend play together, you make up scenarios from the real world and use different play props as copies of real objects. As they use their imaginations, children put words to their ideas and talk about what they are doing as they play with their ‘symbolic’ objects. Through creative thinking, children are making sense of the world and how things work. As you play and share in conversation, make sure your child can see your face so they can learn how words are formed.  

It feels safe 

Being a child in an adult world can be overwhelming. When you enter your child’s play space and get down on their level, you’re letting them know you’re interested in what they’re doing. Through sharing, listening and acknowledging, your child will feel understood, respected and loved, and this makes them feel safe.  

It builds connection 

When you make eye contact with your child, you’re building connection. In the same way you may ask your child to look at you when you tell them something important, your child needs your eye contact and full attention. This lets them know that you’re listening and that they are important. Children are learning all the time. So, when playing, make sure you’re face-to-face with your child so they can imitate your actions, learn new words and how to use them, and feel connected with you. This connection starts with your baby’s first smile - keep finding small moments to continue to build your bond. 

Mum and daughter playing with jigsaw puzzle.

A sense of control 

When you get down and play, your child will feel a greater sense of control and may even direct the play. You are entering their world, so have fun seeing it from their point of view. Forgotten how to play? Just follow their lead and copy what they do with a toy. Playing on their terms is a great confidence booster for your child. 

Everyday play 

Finding time to play can be difficult for busy adults. Make the most of everyday opportunities to talk, sing and play together, like when you’re preparing food, making a grocery list or doing the shopping. Play word games or 'I Spy' in the car. Take a walk in the garden and take in the sunshine and the sounds of the small but important world around you. 

When you spend time giving your full attention to your child each day, you’re letting them know that they’re the most important thing to you. They’ll feel a little bit taller in a big world, and you’ll be helping them grow into curious, creative, healthy and happy little ‘big’ people. All it takes is five minutes. 

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