Playing: ages birth through three

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This is an article from our “Doctor’s Corner” series, brought to you by Samitivej Hospital. Make sure to read the entire series!

Between Infancy and age three, playing equals learning. Therefore, it is important to not just make time for play but to schedule various activities in various settings. It may feel like a child’s playtime is a parent’s work time, and that is because it sometimes is! There isn’t a parent alive who doesn’t feel exhausted after a play date from time to time.

Playing age birth through three

It can be difficult to keep track of what a baby or toddler should be able to do at any given age. Therefore, the following are some age appropriate milestones and suggestions where play and childhood development meet.

By Six Months of Age

By this age children should be rolling from back to front and front to back, can sit without support, and support their legs while standing. They may be on the verge of crawling or rocking on their hands and knees and will begin passing objects from one hand to another. One of the best ways to accomplish these milestones is by playing on the floor every day, often referred to as “tummy time.” Surround children with toys that are in and out of reach encourage infants to grab, reach, kick, and push up their bodies with their arms. Not all children like tummy time at first, but keep at it!

By Nine Months of Age

Constantly engaging your child in talk begins to pay off as children show they understand words like “no” and have recognized their name for a while. The more parents engage their children in talk, the quicker language development will occur. Furthermore, children like to explore the concept of cause and effect. As such they love to watch objects fall and look for things they see their parents have hidden. Parents can support this type of play by rolling balls, stacking blocks and knocking them down, and pushing cars.

Looking for a doctor for your child development questions? We recommend:
Pikul ArsirawechPikul Arsirawech, M.D.
Behavior Counseling Pediatrics, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Samitivej Hospital
Questions about your pregnancy, child birth or life with an infant? Ask the Doctor!

Twelve Months of Age

This is a time when playing involves making noise and, unfortunately, a lot of mess. Banging pots and pans, hitting drums, throwing and kicking balls are all good activities to encourage gross motor skills. Holding crayons and encouraging your child as they draw lines across a page, and stringing large wooden beads are excellent ways to encourage fine motor skills. Kids love to copy their parent’s movements so give them lots of actions to copy! Read books to your child every day as a way to encourage cognitive development regardless of age.

Eighteen Months to Two Years of Age

Children at this age still play “next to” other kids as opposed to “with” other kids and getting children to share at this age is difficult. Playing with other children is important to develop socialization skills but keep expectations realistic. Introduce the concept of taking turns, and monitor toddlers closely for any disagreements. Children at this age are fast and unpredictable, and their coordination is questionable. It’s important to allow them to be active and explore their surroundings while maintaining a safe environment. Using crayons, introducing age appropriate puzzles, and having a child turn the pages of books are great ways to work on fine motor skills. Around two years of age try to make a game where a toddler participates in getting undressed and dressed so that by the age of three they have it mastered!

Three Years of Age

Children at this age should now be playing “with” other children, are able to follow two-step directions, and are more coordinated. Therefore, playing outside is a bit less daunting and all outdoor activities encourage gross motor skill development. Coloring, drawing shapes, cutting with child friendly scissors, and pasting are all great ways to work on fine motor skills. Counting games, matching games, and make-believe play with toys are ideal ways to work on cognitive development.

There are few playing pitfalls for parents. However, the following are several for parents to watch out for:

  • Be careful when comparing children. Some children develop certain skills earlier than others. A pediatrician should go over important developmental markers with parents at each visit to ensure important milestones are met.
  • Have realistic and age appropriate expectations. Children get bored quickly and aggressive behavior is normal for toddlers so don’t be horrified when it happens. Instead, strategize ways to minimize child and parental frustration. Keep planned activities short, sweet, and varied. Playthings or toys should be engaged one at a time to minimize distraction. Playtime should be fun but it’s also a time where children discover what appropriate and inappropriate behavior is. Therefore set limits, encourage verbal expression of feelings and problem solving, introduce levels of discipline, and routinely praise for good behavior.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children NOT watch any television before the age of two, and only one to two hours of quality programming per day thereafter.

Good luck and Have Fun!

Samitivej, We Care!

Pikul Arsirawech, M.D.
Behavior Counseling Pediatrics, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital

For further information, please contact:

Child Health Institute
Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital
2st Floor, Building 2
Tel: 66 (0) 2711-8236-7
Call Center: 66 (0) 2711-8181

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc

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