It’s a sunny afternoon.
As I write this I have three teenagers wrestling over a paddling pool and garden hose…. It will end in tears soon, but while it is fun it is just that - a whole heap of fun.
I haven’t seen them interact, communicate or giggle this much in ages.
The oldest (a girl) is sensibly staying at a safe distance and has planned a strategy to gain control of the hose.
The youngest (a boy) goads the middle one (another boy) - it works - the middle one picks up the smallest and dumps him unceremoniously in the pool!
The little one grabs the hose and sprays the middle one, and they both end up in the pool with the hose spraying each other as they go.
The middle one triumphantly grabs the hose and sprays everyone, stopping for nothing and no one…
The game continues, all are getting tired until -
The oldest grabs the hose connector and renders the hose useless… so they all move to play fighting in the pool!
Play like this:
- Is a brilliant way to bond
- Is amazing exercise
- Involves strategy and planning
- Builds relationships
- Tests social skills
- Tests risk and challenge
- Builds their mental wellbeing
But most of all, this kind of play is spontaneous and fun.
Play has so many forms. But at its heart, all of it helps build and develop your baby in some way.
Play builds bonds
Because play is fun, it is engaging, and through that engagement bonds are built. Deeper connections are established through the games you play as well as a greater understanding and discovery of the other person. As you play, you develop a closeness, and with that closeness, you deepen your relationship.
Play is amazing exercise
The physical exercise in play like my kids have just engaged in is significantly more than would be exerted in an hour’s HIIT class! Because it was fun, they didn’t realise quite how much work they were doing, but there was running, stopping, stalking, jumping, chasing, play fighting, rolling around, jumping on the trampoline and of course a lot of splashing. When we engage in play with our babies, it is often a massive workout for them as well; just as how my kids have now retreated inside (no doubt to do something sedentary), your baby will also find the games you play with them physically exhausting. Their leg, arm, and tummy muscles have worked HARD as they have kicked and chatted to you on the changing mat, and if they also had those wonderful belly laughs that only babies can have, they have also used their core muscles a lot as well!
Play involves strategy and planning
Not all play needs this, but the play that my kids were just involved in did. They needed to work out how to get the hose without getting captured , sprayed, or dumped in the pool. They had to work out what method would give them the best outcome within the ‘rules’ of the spontaneous game. For your baby, they too need strategy, for example if you are playing hide and seek with your one-year-old, they will need to work out how to hide so you can’t see them… even if it is them ‘hiding’ behind their hands!
Play builds relationships and tests social skills
Watching as my youngest (who is still learning about relationships) navigate spraying his older brother (who can easily overpower him) and watching him (who is still learning how much stronger he is than the little one) deal with the youngest in a fun way without hurting him is a lesson in the art of building relationships in slow motion. The youngest has an idea, tests the idea, gets feedback, and then goes for it. The middle one responds, checks the response, and then finishes off the response. All ends happily this time, it worked. Other times, there will be tears! That’s when one of them hasn’t read the signals correctly. But what they are doing through this dance of testing and gaining feedback is actually learning about social relationships - what works, what doesn’t, how far you can go, etc.
Play tests risks and challenge
In order to gain the upper hand in this spontaneous game with no defined rules, risk and challenge needed to be there in bucket loads. My eldest stood outside of the game for a while, watching, waiting, planning, plotting… then came the moment when the boys were wrestling over the hose. She seized her moment, knowing it would come… now she had the water and the power! Watching as the little one risked going in for the attack of the two much bigger children, aware that it might end in him being hurt, but wanting to risk it to be part of the game, shows how much risk, challenge, and even strategy games like these have.
Play is good for mental wellbeing.
We know how important this is, right through life. We need social connection. We need intimacy. Babies need it too, and the science shows that babies who grow up with lots of responsive interaction have stronger brains, are more well-rounded, and do better in life. We know also that we as grown-ups also benefit from the same things - when we are connected, listened to, and have people responding to us, we feel confident and supported. It’s not often that you think about babies having mental health, but they do. And we affect it greatly through the games we play. Coming up with ideas for those games can often be challenging, especially when your baby is really small. The Oliiki app has 1000+ simple, daily, activities to help you get through the day and unpick the learning that your baby is getting from them so that you can be confident that you are providing for your baby’s mental, physical and social wellbeing.
Play is fun
My kids are more connected now, on a high - they are happy. The fun has spurred on the game, it has helped them with all the subconscious learning that has taken place. They are further on in their relationships. The laughter has stopped, but the glow inside hasn’t. The garden’s a mess, but they are buoyant and upbeat. Play is seriously powerful.
If you would like to download the Oliiki app and make the most of the 7-day free trial, follow this link.