explore, learn, move! • by Amy Whitten
why is play important?
As an occupational therapist we support daily routines and occupations as an adult our occupations may include working, being a parent, completing chores around the house, budgeting, socialising, etc. However, for a child particularly a child under school age their primary occupation is play.
Play based learning has also integrated its way into early years learning programs such as kindergarten, preschool and school programs. Due to the importance of play for a child’s development across all areas of development including cognitive, social, emotional regulation and motor performance.
The jnr.life shapes provide children with the opportunity to play in various forms. Follow along for tips and ideas how you can support your child to engage and optimise the use of your jnr.life shapes.
motor development- tummy time
From newborns to infants the phrase tummy time becomes a common word heard during a mums group or at an early year health check. Tummy time is important for developing next control and helps develop the muscles that older babies need to roll over, sit up, crawl and walk.
For newborns we recommended tummy time on their parent or carers body such as on your lap or stomach allowing your baby to be supported through all their movements.
For older babies the jnr.life playmats become a great resource to be supported to enjoy tummy time on a soft and comfortable mat.
For babies that have developed some neck control and are starting to explore rolling or for older children that may be working with therapists due to low muscle tone the play moon can be a wonderful addition to tummy time that can propped under the child’s chest and belly allowing them to see and engage more in their surroundings to enjoy their tummy time a bit more.
For older children that may have low muscle tone or wanting to increase arm strength the play moon and other jnr.life shapes are a great resource to help build upper body strength by providing support for the child’s chest and tummy allowing their arms to be propped against the floor for an upper limb weight baring activity.
It is important to remember that all tummy time activities your child must be supervised and supported. This creates a wonderful opportunity to engage in other play and development activities such as singing, exploring toys or bonding with your child.
motor development- meeting milestones
Motor development is defined by the physical growth and strength of a child and their ability to move around their environment. For an introduction into the gross motor developmental milestones have a look on out Instagram page. Milestone examples include at the approximate age between 1-2 children will start to take steps without support, throw and kick a ball, dance in place to music, crawl up steps and climb into a chair.
Jnr.life play shapes are a wonderful resource to help develop these motor performances. You can jump over, step onto, weave through, stack, roll over the top of. There are so many ways you can incorporate motor development at any age with the jnr.life shapes.
A personal favourite of mine is creating an obstacle course with activities such as pretending to tight-rope walk (balance along the outside of the playmat, using the play moon as stepping stones, standing on and jumping off the play arc (with help of an adult to hold the arc in place). You can also include a imitative scene in this example that you are pirate and the person has to step over the play moon to the plank, walk around the play mat pretending to walk the plank, step up onto the play arc and jump into the water
use the shapes as pretend sets for imaginary play. For example, you could set up the play go-round as a table and set two play moons each side to sit on pretending to be a table and chairs for a café. You can set up lots of different routine such as a hair dressers or school setting. You could also you the top of the play arc as a pretend cash register to pretend scan items.
Setting up creative routine play helps children develop their problem solving and social skills. Using real life situations such as a café, supermarket or hair dressers helps increase independence with daily routines and develop interest in learning these daily activities.
You can also create different imaginative scenes using fair tales and other non- life routines to harness and develop creativity. For example, you could set up the shapes creating a cave where the dragon lives and you have to find a way to protect the village.sensory experiences texture
These shapes are all designed with a sensory texture and experience in mind. The beautiful fabrics that have been carefully selected from the new vegan leather and quilted pieces to the pebble textured fabric shapes children with touch sensory preferences will enjoy stacking, carrying and climbing with these pieces.
Touch senses are made up of lots of neural receptors in the skin these receptors help us processes both our external and internal environments. Touch processing is linked to pain, temperature and vibration in our bodies. Exploring different sensory touch experiences from a young age is how newborns and babies learn to navigate their worlds.sensory experiences – movement (vestibular) input
Vestibular input is one of my favourite senses. Essentially the vestibular system, supports our movement sense and contributes to our balance and spatial orientation. The vestibular sense begins to develop in the womb and once a baby is born is stimulated through movement as we grow older the foundations set up early in life for our vestibular system will assist long term supporting a child’s physical, emotional and learning skills.
Vestibular input for newborns consists of rocking and swaying often parents will do these actions trying to calm their baby not realising that the rocking motion is supporting the child’s vestibular input helping them to feel settled and calm. For older babies the play arc is a great way to play and gently provide a rocking motion for your child. As children get older and are able to climb, carry and stack the play shapes the play go-round is a great shape for children to sit on or roll over. Sitting on the shape will engage the vestibular system to help stay upright and will strengthen muscles such as a child’s core muscles which are important for all large and fine motor patterns. Turning the play go-round on it’s side and rolling over the top of the shape is another great way to engage the vestibular system and work on developing body strength.sensory experience- deep pressure (proprioceptive) input
Creating a jnr.life play-rito using the round or oval playmat. Ask your child to lay in on the rug and wrap them up like a burrito (swaddle) type folding. Once they are wrapped up nice and tough you can provide some light massage (pushing down) on parts of the body such as arms, back, legs giving them a nice big squeeze.
You may have heard of the term deep pressure before. Often this is used to explain that a child would benefit from deep pressure activities. This is an example of a deep pressure activity that is supporting a child’s proprioceptive sensory system. The proprioception system incorporates our muscles and jointsget outdoors importance of green spaces
When we refer to green spaces, we mean land that is covered with grass, tress and other vegetation. Think of a local park or sports field where you are able to go. Green spaces are associated with better physical and mental health as well as social development for children. The jnr.life playmats come in a beautiful cotton tote bag perfect for portable play. So pack up that playmat take it to a green space and allow your child to explore and enjoy nature.fine motor confidence
These shapes create a wonderful tower that requires problem solving so the blocks do not fall down. Lifting, stacking and building these towers at first may not seem like a fine motor activity but for toddlers it is providing the foundation skills for fine motor success. Before toddlers are able to successfully master fine motor skills they require their large muscle groups to have the strength to support their trunk and arms to perform fine motor tasks.
Other fun ways you can engage fine motor muscles such as grasp and grip is using the shapes as a table top service such as the play go-round and give your child drum sticks or like item and pretend to play the drums.