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The Need for Play

If you've lived in the early 90's and are ready to be part of the working force by the early 2000's, you'd find it easy to land a job. Most jobs focused on competencies and basic communication skills- bonus if you exhibit creativity, time management, and a penchant for learning new things. But, see, we live in a VUCA world, as coined by American Military: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous- as if these four words are not scary enough. The call to "upgrade" our skills and be practically a living magic ball of many talents and skills is so evident and relevant.

Do you know that jobs nowadays demand for people who exhibit more than just competencies? They are after complex problem solving, critical thinking, cognitive flexibility, active listening, people management, etc. (Future of Jobs Report: World Economic Forum)

Now, you're a parent in these times as I am, and we are trying to prepare our child early on. I'll let you in on a secret: let's set time for play.

Yes, play!

All the dispositions and emotions learned in play are the same ones our little loves will associate with learning and even responding to challenges.

So go ahead, give children time to play. And while kids can discover playing on their own, it would be so much fun if we can model that, and make it a big part of their everyday.

Here are some strategies and tips to encourage safe play. I shared this with a few talks I've had on play-based learning mid this year, and I hope you can gain a thing or two as well.

1. #MindtheMilestone: Read on the stages of child development. It helps a lot for safe play if we know the stage where our child is at- more than what our little one likes/ loves.

Say, a walker would not be suitable, it is, in fact, dangerous, for babies 4 months old or even 6 months or even 7 months. Find out the prerequisites: your baby being able to hold his/ her head, and sit over a prolonged period.

2. Create an environment where you don't keep saying, "No" or "Don't touch!". Let your babies explore as this is the way they learn. A play-fence would help you set that physical boundary for your little one as he or she explores.

3. Watch out for hazardous toys, especially hand-me-down's or second-hand ones.

4. If you want it extra safe, toys should be labeled flame-resistant or flame-retardant.

5. Stuffed toys should be washable and see if the stitches or parts don't easily come off.

6. Painted/ colored toys and coloring materials should be labeled BPA-free or non-toxic or lead-free.

7. For young kids (6 months for up to 3 years old), the parts of the toys should be 1 1/4 inches by 2 1/4 inches, or do the tissue roll test (toys should not be able to fit inside the core), as kids love to put things in their mouth.

8. Battery-operated toys should have the cases secured tightly by screws.

9. Pricier doesn't mean better. You'll be surprised your child will love playing with plastic bottles, tissue cores, pans and baskets. Although, toys like Leap Frogs and other prominent brands spent years and years on research to merit their price. If you're thinking about splurging on that pull-up walker, or the ride-on toy, go ahead, because those are stable ones compared to a few in the market that costs half the price of the big brands. Again, we are after the safety first and foremost.

10. Never, ever make play a form of reward for young kids, please!

11. Allow for self-directed play; create times to be silly and funny with your child.

12. Part of play is frustration, and you might see your little loves grunting, sighing, shouting, and even throwing toys when they can't connect, or when parts come off loosely, or when they don't get the toy they want, but do try to respond calmly, and model.

13. If you're doing food play, watch out for allergens and choking hazards.

14. Create varied play opportunities- don't forget that trip to the nature or a play in the soil!

Remember that toys are just tools, but it is us who need to create and nurture play. Go and give in to your child's crazy love of filling, emptying, piling up and crashing, rolling and spinning, and lots more fun stuff to be done with toys and things- just keep it safe!

And don't worry, you're not alone in thinking unimaginable, great, wondrous things to happen in their future, but together, we can prepare our children, slowly and surely.

Should you have any issues or concerns, write to us!

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