The job of a child care provider is one of many roles. But one of the most important roles is nurturing a young person through play and helping to shape the adult they will become. Having one-on-one playtime is crucial for the development of a child’s interactions with others, which allows them the freedom to make connections with people later. By understanding the ways kids learn through play, you can have more confidence in communicating to parents just how valuable you and your dedicated time are!

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Collaboration

Working together to reach a common goal teaches children to ask questions, listen and consider priorities. It requires them to make decisions on how to go about reaching the end goal. Many of the things you do with your nanny kids on a daily basis nurture their ability to make joint decisions, which is important for the way they navigate relationships later on. Here are a few ways to encourage collaborative efforts:

  • Building a house together out of blocks
  • Putting together a puzzle
  • Cleaning up toys together
  • Coloring a page in a coloring book
  • Making a cake out of playdoh

Communication

Playtime differs from time in a classroom setting. In a classroom setting, roles and responsibilities, as well as interactions, are assigned by the teacher and curriculum. Playtime with you is when the kids get to be in charge! They get to think about and decide their role and what type of play they want to engage in at that moment. Making rules, taking turns, and even disagreeing and coming to compromises teaches them to communicate their needs, listen and consider the feelings of others. This is also a great time to exercise YOUR right to say no thank you to their suggestions sometimes so that they can begin learning how to respect others’ right to choose as well as their own. Below are some great ways to foster good communication:

  • Ask the child lots of questions about their thoughts
  • Let them play cook in a restaurant and be their customer
  • Create a picture book together
  • Keep open communication about what they feel and need

Content Knowledge

People all have different ways of seeing things, hobbies, ways they process, etc. Your unique perspective can open up new areas of exploration for a child. In addition to expanding their current hobbies and interests, you can also introduce them to new subjects, different activities, and even different cultures. Your one-on-one involvement in their life has the ability to help shape their future; you may be able to teach or introduce them to something they have never seen before. Here are a few ways to introduce new ideas to kids:

  • Read non-fiction books
  • Try things like gardening, dancing, sports, etc.
  • Have conversations about things you see while out (dump trucks, ambulances, police cars, etc.) and what those jobs entail
  • Share some of your favorite hobbies with them

Critical Thinking

Play can serve as a STEM-based learning opportunity. It can teach kids to form hypotheses, analyze information, and experiment to test their hypotheses. Once accomplished, the act of watching their planning and hard work come to fruition acts as positive reinforcement and encourages them to make an even bigger goal next time! Here are some ideas that require critical thinking:

  • Build a train track for their toy cars
  • Challenge them to see who can build a higher tower (be sure to let them win sometimes!)
  • Teach them simple origami or how to make their own book
  • Make playdoh together
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Creative Innovation

Very young children often engage in “imitative” play vs “imaginative” play. As they grow and mature, symbolic or abstract thinking begins to form. The ability to use props paves the way for creative innovation later on in life. Imagine all of the things that have been created in history. They all were the result of someone using creative innovation to solve an issue. Here are a few ideas to jump start creative innovation:

  • See how many things you can use a stick or other simple object for (making a sign, a magic wand, pretending to walk on a tightrope, etc)
  • Play dress up
  • Learn a new language
  • Create an imaginative story or play to share with parents

Confidence

During playtime, children come up with ideas, try them out, make mistakes, reconsider and revamp, and then try again. Once they’re able to get it right, they gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. Children with confidence are more likely to try new things, work through discouragement when they fail, and try again. They are also better able to connect with others, teach other children by example, and encourage them to try again. This type of knowledge will be key in shaping their future jobs, schooling, relationships, and more. Here are some ways to increase confidence in children:

  • Encourage them to find another solution when one doesn’t work
  • Celebrate with them when they figure out solutions
  • Nurture and support them when their solution doesn’t work (offer a break if they seem too frustrated to continue immediately)
  • Offer ideas/clues on what may help them accomplish their goal next time

Armed with the knowledge of how play is a building block for children’s future, you can feel more confident in the job that you do, know how valuable you are, and walk into work or an interview with parents with your head held high. Your work with children teaches them invaluable life skills they need to be successful. The dedicated playtime that you give, no matter how small it may seem, will help them to start developing their sense of self with their best foot forward.

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