Your baby Cannot Read, and Cannot Learn Unless He Plays First

Author – Moira Sullivan, MS, OTR/L, occupational therapist

First of all, your baby cannot read. Reading involves understanding what is written which comes only after learning from the environment. They may make sounds in response to seeing a word and hearing the sound for that word many times, but that is not reading.

Occupational therapists use play to increase motor and sensory processing skills in children. Need help paying for occupational therapy, an HSA may help, get affordable health insurance quotes.

Why use play? Play is the work of a child, it is how they learn.

From the very beginning, infants use their body to explore their environment. They chew on their fists and toes, roll over, grab for things, put everything within their reach into their mouth. By doing so, they build the foundation by which they begin to understand their world.

As children grow, they continue to use their senses to explore. They learn the difference between heavy and light, soft and rough, high and low, big and small not just by looking at pictures, but by experiencing these in the real world, which gives a much richer understanding.

The skills children build through play translate directly to success in school.

Let’s take a look at what is needed for children to learn in a classroom:

• Writing – picking up and manipulating a writing instrument, being able to see the difference between shapes – especially those which are similar such as p and p, understanding how shapes get put together to form letters, judging where to put letters in relation to each other so that they form words.
• Reading – visual tracking, seeing the difference between shapes, many of the same components as writing.
• Math – spatial awareness for seeing how to group objects, seeing the differences between the shapes of the numbers, being able to write them on paper in a way that makes sense to them and someone else who is trying to read/grade their work, the concept of categorizing.

You get the idea, these are foundational skills that are needed across a wide range of daily activities for children, as well as for adults. Click here if you need affordable health insurance for your family.

We adults love the idea of children studiously at their desks, paying attention to what a teacher is saying and absorbing knowledge. To do that, they need to:

• Be able to sit upright in a chair at a desk without falling off
• Filter less important sensory input such as a car going by outside the classroom, the glare of the overhead lights, their friend whispering, someone walking by in the hallway
• Hear clearly and make sense of what they hear
• See clearly and make sense of what they see

So how do these skills develop? Some examples are:
• Spatial awareness and body coordination– using one’s body to climb, run, jump, crawl, catch, throw, swim, play tag, swing, balance…
• Visual tracking – following the trajectory of a ball, following along with simple board games, finger painting, building with blocks…
• In-hand manipulation – using play-doh, scooping and pouring beans, water or digging in dirt…

Building skills through play increases a child’s motivation, their attention to the task, and their willingness to do the activity enough to build mastery. We all learn and remember best the things that we consider fun.

So let’s see play for what it is: the serious business of childhood.

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