Everyday routine like bathing opportunities for play
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To adults, play is a change from their work. To children, play is their work.

Play helps children grow and develop. Play is important to children’s physical and mental health. Just like getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising.

During play, children use both their bodies and minds. They interact with their environment, with materials, and with other people.

Why is Play Important?

When your child plays, they:

  • Feel loved, happy, and safe.
  • Learn about thei body.
  • Learn about caring for others and the environment.
  • Express thei feelings like delight, surprise, and frustration.
  • Build pathways in their brain.
  • Become attached to you.
  • Builds self-esteem and self-confidence.

What Areas Are Developed Through Play?

Play doesn’t have to be organized. Everyday routines like bathing and feeding provide opportunities for play.

Everyday routine like bathing opportunities for play

Playtime is a learning time for young children. Creating opportunities for children to play with others and also by themselves is important.

Let your child lead their play time with you. When you let your child take the lead, you are telling they are important and that you are interested in what they are doing. This also helps your child learn curiosity.

Let your child lead her play time with you

Don’t give your child too many toys at once. If you have a lot of toys, rotate them to keep your child interested. Giving them too many options will be overwhelming.

As long as your child is safe, let them explore and experiment.

explore and experiment

Encouraging Play

Encourage play. Make time for it.

Your child will enjoy playing by themself.

Sometimes they will want to play with someone else. Your child needs playmates. These can be you, other adults, siblings, or peers. By playing with others, your child will begin to discover their strengths and weaknesses. They will develop feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence.

When children play in a group of other children, each child will have different strengths. This allows each child to be a leader at some point during play.

Arrange play with other children in the neighbourhood in park programs or play groups. Check out toy lending libraries. As your child gets older, they may be ready for daycare or preschool. This provides an excellent opportunity to be social with other children.

Try not to over-schedule your child’s life. They need time to play by themself. They also need quiet times.

He needs time to play by himself

Just as we balance out children’s food, we also have to balance their activities. Children need a variety of experiences. Try to make time in a week for social and solitary play, reading, helping around the home, music, and caring for pets.

Children need both indoor and outdoor play time. Children also need active play where they take risks and test their boundaries.

Guide to Buying Toys

You may notice that your child spends more time playing with the box a toy came in than the toy itself. You don’t have to buy fancy toys. In fact, sometimes fancy toys are not as helpful for learning and development as simple toys. For example, a child can engage in more creative play with a simple doll than a doll that walks, talks, and eats by itself.

creative play

Toys do not have to be expensive to be educational or fun. Some simple and inexpensive toys are metal or plastic cups, pots and pans, wooden spoons, crayons and paper, boxes, boxes inside of boxes, dress up toys, balls, plastic bottles, and floating toys.

When you are buying toys, there is a lot to consider.

How Many

Your child does not need multiple toys or the most high-tech gadgets.


Your child will be rough on their toys. Make sure that the toy can stand up to being dropped, banged, poked, and pulled. Also, make sure the toy is washable with both soap and water.

What is the reason for the toy?

  • Can your child use their five senses when playing with the toy? The five senses are seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and feeling.
  • Does the toy give your child the chance to move, push, or pull?
  • Does your child have to use their imagination to play with the toy?
  • Does the toy encourage climbing, crawling, walking, running, jumping, or rolling?
  • Can the toy be squeezed, banged, thrown, opened, closed, or stacked?

What Age is the Toy for?

Often, toys show what age the toy is made for. This helps keep children safe. Choose toys that are approved for your child’s age.

Will the toy still be interesting as your child gets older and their skills increase?


Make sure that your child has one toy that they can play with on their own. A toy should engage and involve your child, such as blocks. It is important to buy toys that your child can do things with instead of toys that do things by themselves.

A toy should engage and involve your child


Provide a variety of toys for a wide range of experiences. Everyday objects in your house can be toys, like pots and pans.

Provide a variety of toys

Active Play

Being active and exploring the world comes with some risks. For example, your child might trip over some rocks when running outside and skin their knee. It is important for your child to take risks during play. This pushes their limits and helps them to develop skills.

Active Play

Your child will benefit from active play in the following ways.

  • Build self-confidence
  • Build resiliency skills
  • Develop a belief in themself
  • Explore independence
  • Develop sound judgement
  • Develop risk assessment skills
  • Develop social skills
  • Understand that it is safe to test limits
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment
  • Willing to try new skills and new behaviours

As an adult, your role is to make sure that the environment is free of hazards. For example, making sure there is no glass in the sandbox before your child plays.

your role is to make sure that the environment is free of hazards

You can support your child to be active, explore their world, and take risks by:

  • providing supervision when your young child is playing
  • making sure the place where your child is playing has no hazards in it
  • encouraging your child to be independent
  • making time for your child to play with other children
  • encouraging your child’s desire for joy and excitement
  • helping your child learn how to understand risks and figure out how to manage them
  • encouraging your child’s imagination
  • making sure that your child gets a lot of rest so they have the energy to be active
  • allowing your child to have free time

Stages of Play

Stages of Play 0-12 Months

Your baby learns through their five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Even a newborn baby needs things to look at, to listen to, and things to touch. During the first few months, you are your child’s best playmate. Looking into your eyes, feeling your touch, and hearing your voice are examples of ways that your baby is learning with you. Your baby does not need expensive toys and gadgets.

By the time your baby is three months old, they need interesting and safe objects to hold and play with. Small, soft, washable toys of different textures are great.

objects your baby can play with

Look around your house. There are a lot of objects that you already have that your baby can play with and learn from. Some examples are cardboard boxes, plastic containers, pots and pans, and safe, non-sharp kitchen utensils.

non sharp kitchen utensils

Stages of Play 1-3 Years

Your child is still developing a lot of skills. They are learning physical skills, such as how to climb and jump. They are learning social skills. They are learning how to be independent, problem solve, and plan. They are using their imagination more. They are remembering events and are starting to be able to apply things they have learned to new tasks. Play will help them develop these skills.

Your child is still developing a lot of skills

Continue to give your child opportunities to play with you, with other children their age, and with other people in your community.

Your child’s favourite thing to do can change every day. Let your child make choices about what they want to do. Allow for free play time (time when play is not organized and doesn’t have rules). Your child still needs to see you, or know where you are, to feel safe when they play.

Every day, give some time for your child to lead your play with them. This helps them build their connection to you and their self-esteem.

Your child does not need expensive toys and gadgets.

Your child does not need expensive toys and gadgets

Your child needs active, physical play every day.

Stages of Play 3 – 5 Years

Your child is continuing to learn about their body and what it can do. They are actively using their imagination in both play and everyday activities. For example, your child may want to wear a superhero cape to preschool.

actively using their imagination

Your child’s social skills are also developing. They are learning how to share and to recognize other people’s feelings. They are also learning how to negotiate. This helps with fair play, but sometimes can feel manipulative. For example, “Dad said I could …”

Your child’s world is expanding beyond your family and home. Help to expand this. Take trips to parks, playgrounds, and activities. Allow for social opportunities.

You will notice that your child will enjoy imitating you during play. They are trying out roles, words, and testing boundaries. As long as your child is safe, it is important for your child to test their limits.

Your child needs active, physical play every day.

Outdoor Play

Playing outside helps your child grow and learn.

Playing outside lets your child:

  • Be active
  • Explore
  • Use their imagination
  • Problem-solve
  • Develop their muscles

Children who play outdoors move more than those who play indoors. Time spent outdoors can help meet the physical activity requirements of your child’s age group.

Children who play outside get less chronic illnesses, like Type 2 diabetes, vitamin D deficiency, asthma, and high blood pressure. It can also decrease your child’s risk of experiencing depression and anxiety later in life.

As long as children are properly dressed, playing outside during winter and summer is both healthy and possible. To get winter and/or safety tips, click here.

Remember that adult supervision is very important for young children and especially important when children are playing outdoors.

Remember adult to have supervision

Toys for Fun and Learning

Toys for Fun and Learning 0-1 year

Things to look at:

  • Mobiles
  • Pictures and picture books
  • Toys
  • Your happy face

Things to listen to:

  • Music
  • Voices
  • Musical toys

Things to feel:

  • Soft toys
  • Things with different texture, like furry, silky, smooth, fluffy, bumpy, rubbery

Things to hit and shake:

  • Hanging toys to bat at, reach for, grab, and kick
  • Plastic jars with lids (put things inside of them for a new sound)
  • Rattles

Things to hold and bite:

  • Plastic cups
  • Wooden spoons
  • Teething rings

Toys for Fun and Learning 1-2 year

Active toys:

  • Toys to ride on
  • Toys to push or pull
  • Climbing space
  • Things to throw and catch

Toys to sort and put together:

  • Nesting cups or boxes
  • Stacking rings
  • Boxes to sort blocks into

Noisy toys:

  • Things to bang, shake, and make music, like drums, tambourines, rattles, bells

Toys for messy play:

  • Containers to fill and empty
  • Pails and shovels
  • Big crayons

Toys for playing grownup:

  • Kitchen tools, like pots, pans, wooden spoons
  • Dress-up clothes like hats
  • Small table and chairs
  • Dolls and stuffed animals
  • Toy phone
  • Toy tools

Toys for Fun and Learning 2-3 year

Toys for active play:

  • Tricycles
  • Low rocking horses
  • Wagons
  • Swings

Toys for messy play:

  • Sand with pails, shovels, containers, and spoons
  • Clay, finger-paints, or play dough
  • Bubbles to blow

Toys for quiet play:

  • Puzzles
  • Blocks
  • Stacking toys
  • Little cars
  • Animal and human figures
  • Boxes and paper bags to sort things into and carry them around

Arts and crafts:

  • Crayons
  • Finger paints and play dough
  • Chalk

Toys for pretending:

  • Old clothes for dress-up
  • Brooms
  • Toy dishes
  • Dolls, stuffed animals


  • Picture books
  • Word books

Toys for Fun and Learning 3-5 year

Toys for active play:

  • Tricycles and bicycles
  • Beanbags and balls
  • Buckets and shovels

Toys for quiet play:

  • Building sets
  • Puzzles and easy games
  • Small cars, trucks, trains and figures
  • Wind-up toys

Arts and crafts:

  • Play dough
  • Crazy goop
  • Paints
  • Bubbles
  • Crayons and markers
  • Blackboard and chalk

Toys to make music:

  • Drums, xylophone, tambourine
  • Pots and pans

Things for make-believe play:

  • Dress-up clothes
  • Dolls and stuffed animals
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Hand puppets made from mittens

Physical Activity

Physical Activity 1-4

Between 1-4 years of age, your child should have at least 180 minutes of physical activity throughout the day. This does not mean 180 minutes all at one time. It can be spread out over the whole day. For example, your child might be physically active for 20 minutes every hour for 9 hours of the day.

For small children, meeting the physical activity requirements is often not difficult, as they like to move around and explore their world. Below are some ways that you can help your child to be physically active.

  • Plan sitting activities that will not take too much time.
  • Switch from sitting activities to movement activities.
  • Let your child explore both indoors and outdoors.
  • Visit your local playground.
  • Actively play with your child, e.g., kicking a ball around the back yard.
  • Do not leave your child in their car seat or stroller for a long time. It is recommended that children under the age of 5 are placed not in a confined seated position for more than 1 hour at a time.
  • Encourage walking instead of using the stroller.
  • Keep TVs and computers out of your child’s bedroom.
  • Have little/or no screen time around your child. Screen time is any time that includes TVs, computers, tablets, electronic games, or cell phones.

Physical Activity 5 years

By the time your child is 5, they should have over 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. This does not mean 60 minutes all at one time. It can be spread out over the whole day. For example, your child might be physically active for 10 minutes of vigorous activity every hour for 6 hours of the day.

Please note that this guideline is for every day. If your child is enrolled in soccer on Fridays and is active for 90 minutes, the extra 30 minutes does not count towards the next day’s 60 minutes.

Children should have as many opportunities as possible throughout the day to move around.

Be careful not to overschedule your child. Unscheduled physical activity is important.

Moderate physical activity includes bike riding, playing at the playground, skateboarding, walking, hiking, and t-ball.

Vigorous physical activity includes running, swimming, aerobics, dancing, and ice skating.

Below are some ways that you can help your child to be physically active.

  • Plan sitting activities that will not take too much time.
  • Switch from sitting activities to movement activities.
  • Let your child be active both indoors and outdoors.
  • Visit your local playground.
  • Encourage active imaginative play.
  • Actively play with your child, e.g., kicking a ball around the back yard.
  • Enroll your child in community programming, like swimming lessons or t-ball.
  • Be active together as a family, e.g., take a walk, rake the yard, or shovel snow.
  • Keep TVs and computers out of your child’s bedroom.
  • Limit your child’s screen time to less than 2 hours. Screen time is any time that includes TVs, computers, tablets, electronic games, or cell phones.


Resiliency is your child’s ability to cope with stress, changes, and new situations. To cope with something means that you are handling a difficult situation the best that you can.

Verbal and non-verbal communication skills

Verbal communication skills include talking, listening, and responding. Non-verbal communication skills refers to body language; the way that you show your emotions through your body, for example clenching your fists when you are mad.

Motor Skills

Motor skills are any action that using muscle, like lifting something or walking.

Social Skills

These skills help you interact with other people, like learning to share.

Literacy Skills

Literacy skills include being able to:

  • Read
  • Write
  • Understand what you read
  • Count

Click here for more information.


Empathy means being able to understand another person’s feeling and situation. Empathy is an important social skill. For more information, click here.

Brain Development

Young children’s brains are growing, developing, and learning how to work. For more information, click here.

Attach to you

Attachment is the bond that your child will develop with you. For more information, click here.


Having a healthy self-esteem means that you belief in yourself and your worth.


Being self-confident means that you trust in your own abilities and qualities.

Screen Time

Screen time refers to the time that your child is exposed to anything that has a screen: computers, iPods, vehicle DVD players, gaming systems, cell phones, tablets, and televisions. This also includes the use of these types of media in the background, for example, having the TV on during dinner. Click here for more information.


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