Learning to Play

Learning to Play

by Jill Philby

Quite a few years ago, my husband and I brought home our first child.  He went back to work after a few days.  I stayed home with our daughter.  I held her, fed her, bathed her, rocked her, and repeated all of that until I couldn’t stand it anymore. 

My husband and I had planned for me to stay at home. I wanted to be home with her.  It wasn’t that I didn’t love her, and I certainly wanted the best for her.  I just didn’t know what to DO with her.  I had never been around babies, and though I had been assured that it would come naturally, it didn’t.

Finally, I called my best friend, a professional baby expert, and, in desperation, asked, “What do I do with her all day?”

A few days later, I received a packet in the mail detailing how to play with a baby.  And, slowly but surely, my brain started to come up with all sorts of ways that my baby and I could enjoy being together.  And, eventually, all the talking, singing, and playing with my daughter felt natural, even though it truly was a learned skill.

So, how can you enjoy your time spent with a baby or young child?  The youth staff at Ames Public Library has a few suggestions:

  • Sing.  Children love hearing their grown-ups’ voices!  Singing to your child can soothe them and help develop language skills. Sing to your child in whatever language you are comfortable with. Not sure what to sing?  You can check out a great CD from the youth department such as “Mainly Mother Goose” by Sharon, Lois, and Bram, but “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is a great place to start!
  • Play.  Play can be as simple as a game of peek-a-boo or “This Little Piggie”.  Play can be as messy as splashing water during bath time or smearing yogurt on a tray.  Here at the library, we have puzzles, scarves, musical instruments, and puppets to enhance play at home.  And don’t forget to move with your child! Kicking the ball around or using playground equipment is fun for everyone.  Simply put, if your child is engaged, consider it play! 
  • Read.  Reading is my favorite way to spend time with a child.  With a huge selection of sturdy board books and fantastic picture books, Ames Public Library has books for every child! Books to touch, books to look at, books to listen to. While there are lots of great story books out there, don’t forget to investigate some nonfiction, too.
  • Write.  Write?  For a baby?  Yep, even for a baby!  While toddlers and preschoolers love markers, paints, and crayons to draw or write with, babies need to develop hand muscles and their pincer grasp.  Putting them on the floor to enjoy tummy time works all those muscles that will be needed later for grasping and controlling those writing and drawing utensils.
  • Talk.  No matter what age, children need to make sounds and find their voices. Talking with your child builds brain connections and promotes social-emotional connections. When talking with your child, try to wait for them to respond before you continue the conversation. Their brains process information more slowly than adult brains!

Hmmm. Notice anything about those suggestions?  All of those tips are great at any age!  And when you use one tip, you may find that you are also using some of the others at the same time.  When you read, you may find you and your child are also having a conversation about the book.  And when you play ball with your child, they are also building hand muscles for writing. 

So, sing, play, read, write, and talk with your child.  It’s good for them and for you!  If you need more ideas on how to interact with a child, check out the Events Calendar in Ames Public Library’s Page One newsletter or at www.amespubliclibrary.org for storytimes and other happenings at the library.  Or just come see me and I can tell you what I’ve learned!