As parents, we sometimes sit on the fence between, \u2018Oh, my children are doing just fine,\u2019 and \u2018OMG, they can\u2019t seem to grasp the concept of what I am teaching them, is there something wrong?\u2019 These responses vary according to situations, and you should not question yourself on whether you are a good parent or not - just chill, because we will be breaking down the types of learn-while-playing techniques you can try at home. First, we need to look at how children think, also known as their cognitive development. Diving inside the mind of your child, you will see how they (literally) connect the dots between playing and learning. Your young child\u2019s brain is developing quickly, just like how fast a baby grows. They respond to stimuli differently at different ages, and you can support them by providing them with the nutrients they need. This is where Similac\u00ae Gain Plus Gold comes in. Similac\u00ae Gain Plus Gold can boost your child's cognitive development, so they can learn quicker, as they play! The good news is you don\u2019t have to spend a bomb on purchasing toys for your child at each stage of their cognitive development. Playthings can be easily recreated with materials at home. Age 1 to 2 years At this time of their lives, they will be participating in what we call solitary play. They are not really bothered about other children. Instead, they will be very focused on their toys. Of course, they will still call out for you to sit with them while they play, but you will observe that they will pick up a toy, look at it, and throw (happens quite often at the dinner table too, right?). This behaviour is normal. Open-ended toys (batteries not included) are helpful for your child. It heightens their imagination and creativity while strengthening their motor skills. Here are some open-ended toys you can make: 1. Non-toxic, edible playdough Before your child can hold a pencil and learn how to write, they need to know what their fingers can do. Moulding playdough is a great way for them to discover that! It is hours of concentrated fun for them. As they squeeze, roll, and flatten the playdough, the synapses in their brains are sparking creative signals. Image from WhatsUpMoms Playdough is so easy to make, it is a wonder why most don\u2019t make it at all. You can make small batches at a time using the colours you want. Because it is easily perishable, you can throw it out after a while. You also don\u2019t have to be worried if your child puts it in their mouth because it IS edible. Check out how to make non-toxic, edible playdough here! 2. Cardboard box creativity Do you have parcel boxes at home from your online shopping? Once you unbox them, don\u2019t throw or send them to recycle just yet! Allow your child to have a go at it first. Pass them non-toxic magic markers along with a stack of stickers and let them get creative with it. If the boxes are big enough, they might be perfect as a playhouse or an imaginary castle. At this age, your child would be able to walk (although wobbly) without support. Having a cardboard box will allow them to push, pull, beat, scribble, climb in, or stack them. Image from Kids Sky&Ian - TV Show Alternatively, you can get creative and create a makeshift arcade game! You can brave this project or create a simple platform for your child to play, say drawing a railroad for their toy trains or roads for their toy cars. It will be fun for you and fun for your child. 3. Object identification Image by Nathan Legakis from Pixabay Once they\u2019ve had a hand on grasping, introduce a simple identification game. They can differentiate between large balls from small balls or blue buttons from green buttons. If you don\u2019t have any plaything at home, how about separating garlic bulbs and onions? Just have two containers ready with the items you want them to separate. They don\u2019t have to do it right but allow them to separate the items on their own as you guide them. Don\u2019t stress, just let them explore. Remember that all these items will require the use of major and minor muscles along with their visual and cognitive skills. So whether they are doing it right or wrong, they are still developing essential abilities. Age three to four years At this stage, they are more aware of their surroundings and will participate in parallel play. Your child will begin to play side-by-side with other children, though not together. If they are enrolled in a nursery class they might show these play patterns. You might observe these patterns too if you bring them on playdates. The type of play that will help your child at this stage is constructive play. They can make sense of two items and play with them together. For example, they would know how to dress a doll or connect train cabins. In the presence of other children, they will watch them play, and emulate them to stack, build, match, or make music. Children this age are also entering the peak of pretend play, hence, providing tools that will encourage imagination is highly recommended. Try introducing these play activities to your child at home: 1. Vegetable Match Image by Chiew Sue Lynn Your child is always observing you and they might want to follow what mommy and daddy do. Allow them to \u2018play\u2019 with the items you use. They would probably be more excited to play with vegetables that mommy and daddy use in the kitchen than their toys. You can take this opportunity to introduce vegetables during playtime. Let your toddler play match by pasting images of vegetables and allowing them to match them with the real thing. The activity helps your child make a connection between the picture and the real thing. You can apply this method to stationeries or toys they already have. As you guide them through this activity, they are also learning new words. 2. Kitchen Helper Image by congerdesign from Pixabay Messiness is something that might be a constant in your home after having a child. Sometimes, it seems like nothing stays in order. But hey, that is the blessing of having a child - it teaches you not to be afraid of the mess. Once you overcome that, your child can take part in more activities at home. Do you allow your child to be in the kitchen with you? Because it is a good time for your toddler to be the new kitchen helper. At this age, their hands are becoming more nimble. Therefore, you can let them stir items in the mixing bowl, cut food sachets, sprinkle cheese on pizza, or screw and unscrew jar lids. If you don\u2019t know where to start, free up this weekend and check out these recipes to do with your little one. 3. Build a blanket fort Image from @prettypeacefulcrochet Screen time will not heighten your child\u2019s creativity. You are the key to help them blossom in their cognitive development by encouraging the use of imagination. An activity that will help boost that is by building blanket forts. There is no structure during this playtime. You and your child could build a fort by clipping blankets to a stable structure and transfer some of their toys inside (maybe some snacks from what you made above). The construction of the fort teaches them teamwork and critical thinking skills. Especially so when the blanket plops flat on the floor (which will eventually happen). Allow them to pitch ideas, it helps their creative juices to flow. Don\u2019t stop them, but prompt them with questions to get them thinking and imagining. Fuelling imagination and creativity will make way for the development of confidence. Age five to six years This is the time when their fantasy play will soar. Though you worry about your child entering into a \u2018proper\u2019 schooling system soon, they can\u2019t really grasp that concept yet. However, that does not mean that they are not thinking. In contrast, they are developing flexible thoughts as they begin to project their thinking forward - into the future. They start pondering about possible situations and are more adept with language and emotions. During playtime, they will be interested in the activity they are involved in, along with what others are doing. This is known as cooperative play. More than ever, they are using new words to express their ideas and concepts. Help them develop these skills fully by introducing the activities below: 1. Numbers and counting Image by Chiew Sue Lynn Learning numbers do not have to be boring, and it does not need to be counting objects on paper as well. As a parent, you\u2019ve probably used tons of baby wipes. Don\u2019t discard the plastic openings. Cut off the aluminium packaging and keep the covers. Just like the image above, you can stick a piece of paper with a printed or written number and allow your child to count and add beads (or beans) into the allocated space. From this activity, your child will learn to link the digits to the amount and it will be easier to make instant recognition. 2. Building blocks and LEGO Image by \u0412\u0438\u043a\u0442\u043e\u0440\u0438\u044f \u0411\u043e\u0440\u043e\u0434\u0438\u043d\u043e\u0432\u0430 from Pixabay No one can deny the good that comes out from playing with building blocks. This is especially significant when they are in the latter part of their preschool years. They come in different shapes and bright hues. Creating sculptures from connecting bricks (matchboxes are also fine) helps develop fine motor skills and spark creativity. It requires some engineering and science for their work to be assembled. When playing with their friends, it involves cooperation as they solve the puzzle together. Other than leaving them be with their toy bricks, get them involved if you are fixing DIY furniture at home. Let them help by being your fixer-upper. They can then watch and correlate their play to real-life. 3. Window art paint Image by Esther Lau This activity can be fun for both adults and children. Of course, they can paint on paper but let\u2019s take it up a notch, shall we? You can easily make window art paint with glue and acrylic paint. For the tutorial, click on this. When painting and working on their craft, the right side of the brain is activated. Logical thinking and problem-solving works on the left side of the brain. Encouraging the use of both sides of the brain leads to balanced cognitive development. No matter the method, art is very important. It helps your children communicate their feelings. Colours evoke emotions and using a tool to paint helps develop their mobility skills. Nutrients for Your Child\u2019s Inspiration Don\u2019t just feed your children information, feed them brain food so they will have inspiration as well. Where there are inspirations, creativity, and ideas flow. This is where milk comes in. Milk plays an important role as a nutrient provider. It provides a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that kids need to support their growth and overall development. Similac\u00ae\u00a0Gain Plus Gold When choosing nutritional milk for your child, think Similac\u00ae Gain Plus Gold. It contains 2\u2019-FL, also known as 2\u2019Fucosyallactose. This breakthrough ingredient in pediatric nutrition helps support children\u2019s body defense systems. 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