What’s going on for baby?

Right from the start, this resource has emphasised the importance of play. Play is a child’s work and is how they get their main learning opportunities. Humans are no different to other baby mammals like kittens, puppies or cubs: play prepares them for adult life.

At ages 3–5 the play activities can seem more like miniature adult activities than previously, and a child’s sense of humour is developing as they are learning about how things ‘ought’ to be.

Their play will likely include pretend games with imaginary friends. Through their imagination they can create someone or something special just for themselves.

By age 4, pretend play may become quite sophisticated. Upsetting events or exposure to inappropriate material can lead to confusion or fears — real or imagined.

Play also provides ideal opportunities for learning te reo Māori.

Tamariki learn best when they’re relaxed and having fun.

How can parents and whānau help?

  • Be their child’s first and most important playmates. Turn anything into an opportunity to play. For example, getting dressed, household jobs, cooking or shopping are all opportunities to have fun together and watch them learn and grow.
  • Avoid the ‘it’s just quicker to do it myself’ thinking and instead give tamariki the opportunity to help with jobs at home.
  • Be prepared to laugh along with them and make up silly rhymes and stories together.
  • Respond thoughtfully to their pretend play. It can be a source of entertainment and amusement, or it may cause concern.
  • Decide whether they need someone to ‘play along’ with in an imaginative game, or if they need comfort and reassurance.
  • Remember that in most cases imaginative play will be influenced by all the things they see and hear in their daily lives.
  • Be aware of what they may be watching on television or accessing on the internet.
  • Understand that fantasy play with imaginary friends can be their way of experimenting with different situations and feelings. It can give a glimpse into their inner thoughts and wishes.
  • Whānau can encourage the use of te reo through play. Keep it fun and lively.

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