The sun is shining and your little one is wanting to be outside. This means many trips to the park for most of us! Playgrounds and parks provide our children with unlimited ways to explore and encourage development. This guide is laid out so that you can see ways to encourage development in each area: communication, motor, social emotional, adaptive, and cognitive.
Many parks provide a variety of surfaces for your little one to navigate. If they are new to walking make sure you hold their hand and give them the support they need. Your toddler is refining their gross motor skills by walking on a variety of different surfaces. They will learn to step over objects and avoid obstacles which will help them explore their world.
Not everyone has stairs in their house. The playground provides a perfect opportunity to practice either walking or crawling up and down stairs. Give them the support they need by holding their hand or their trunk to guide them up and down. Never let your child on the stairs without supervision. Show them how to use the railing for support as well. Younger children may practice crawling up and scooting back down. Older toddlers may hold your hands to step up and down. Stair climbing requires a lot of coordination so providing opportunities to practice in a safe environment is important
Helping your little one climb onto objects and equipment is another way for them to build strength and refine coordination. If they are small use items that are closer to the ground to practice. Help your little one by showing them where to put their hands and feet. Give them the support they need so that they do not fall.
Make New Friends
The park or playground is a great place to make new friends. When another child is near yours encourage them to look at them or give them a little wave and say “hi.” Watch how your child responds. Do they cling to you and are unsure what to do? Show them that it is ok to introduce themselves and stay near them until they feel more comfortable.
The park may bring on a lot of emotions for your little one. Are they excited to go on the swing? Are they sad that it is time to go home? Take a moment and talk to them about what they are feeling. Identify their emotions as well as your own so that they can begin to understand their own feelings.
Have a plan before you go to the park on how you can get your child to leave without a meltdown. This is a struggle for many parents. Help ease the transition by giving them warnings that it is going to be time to leave soon. Keep a favorite toy in the car or stroller so when it is time to go, they have something to look forward to.
The park provides TONS of opportunities to increase your child’s vocabulary. Label all of the new things that you see at the playground that you do not see at home. Teaching your child new action words (verbs) at the park is perfect as well since they are running, jumping, and climbing. Look below for a target word list to help you get started!
The park is a great place to have your little one practice following directions. Ask them to “hold your hand” or “go to the swing” to see if they can listen and follow a simple direction.
These days playgrounds are full over colorful slides and swings. By labeling the colors that you see, you are helping your little one learn them. Don’t expect them to be able to name them right away. Often times children will be able to identify (point at when asked) before they are able to label a color. Labeling colors is also a perfect way to grow your toddler’s phrases. If they say “slide”, you repeat back “green slide” to model what a two-word phrase sounds like.
Following rules and directions when at the playground will help your little one stay safe. This is a great time to practice having your child hold your hand when outside and near streets. Teach them to stop at the street to look for cars. This is a skill that you can start modeling when they are very young which will make it easier for them to learn as they get older.
If you have been working on transitioning from a sippy cup to an open cup, the park is a perfect place to practice as it doesn’t matter if they spill. If you need more information about how to teach your little one to drink from an open cup click here for a quick guide.
Enjoy your time at the playground!