Child’s Play: Why it Matters

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
6 min readApr 23, 2019

In the age of technology everywhere, it’s important to remember that REAL play is critical to your child’s development.

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Cincinnati mom, Sarah Hunt, says her two boys are big fans of creating puppet shows. “The puppets are simple paper bag or sock puppets and the “stage” is whatever shipping box they can find in the basement,” she says.

Sometimes play doesn’t look much like learning, and to parents, play often looks like a plain mess. Parents are tempted to focus on the latest technology, downloading educational apps, and whipping out flash cards to give their kids an edge. However, experiential learning is a child’s foundation for life. Kids need to play with real things and experience real people. Children who engage all of their senses through play create the context they need for understanding the world they live in.

Get Real for Language

Language is social and emotional. Going for coffee with a bestie will prove that to anyone, although socializing with a friend is using language we already know, and not the same as learning a language. However, the same principle applies when learning a language, even in infancy. John Hutton, M.D., clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, co-owner of the Blue Manatee children’s bookstore, and author of the Baby Unplugged book series, says, “Babies only really process language when spoken to by a real person.” Audio, video and flash cards have no context to which the child can relate. What they relate to is their caregivers engaging them through play. Babies relate to holding familiar objects in their hands and hearing the words that label these objects coming from Mom and Dad. Apple. Shoe. Cup. All senses are engaged.

Hutton says, “Humans are social animals and learn through communication and imitation,” especially during those first three years when families experience intense togetherness. What happens when a child interacts with her primary caregiver is so much of what she learns. The more you talk to your baby and engage in real-world playtime together, the more you support her foundation for learning as well as her social-emotional bonds.

Play With Your Child

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Bonnie Jean Feldkamp

Bonnie is an award-winning syndicated columnist and opinion editor for The Louisville Courier Journal @WriterBonnie