04/02/2013 05:45 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2013

Dr. Toy Talks About the Basics of Play ©

Play is an on-going, natural process for children. Like little sponges, children begin observing and absorbing from infancy. They learn by using all their senses -- sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Through observation, mimicry, and experimentation, children learn about the world around them and gain mastery of essential skills.

When a parent is involved with a baby -- smiling and creating silly and different sounds, making the baby laugh -- the parent becomes the baby's first "Big Toy."

Fathers who enjoy close contact with their infants soon are distinguished from the mother by the different ways they play. The baby quickly learns to respond to a different person's sounds and touches. Through such interchanges, the infant becomes conscious of individual people. Also, the baby becomes aware of the immediate environment.

The early years are intensely formative, a period when children gain knowledge about themselves and about their environment, develop basic motor skills, discover many of their abilities and gain the self-image and security that lasts a lifetime.

In the earliest stages, little ones play merely in proximity to others without being involved with them. They learn by observing others engaged in play. They play alone and will find satisfying activities for themselves and to share moments with other children and adults.

As they grow, they learn to share toys, give them away, and fight over them. Children learn from other children by talking with and watching one another, by trying new scenarios and exchanging information, even fantasies.

The first five years is the time when the most rapid physical, emotional and mental growth takes place. At each stage of development, a child needs different kinds of stimulation, enhanced by different kinds of toys and different play strategies.

When children enter nursery schools, child care programs, parent cooperatives or have visits away from home, they are introduced to new children, different toys and playthings and other styles of playing.

As they discover how to handle these situations, children strengthen their confidence and gain new maturity. When children enjoy what they are doing (provided what they are doing is positive behavior), there is less need for discipline or worry.

If they are having fun, children can play alone or with others with blocks. When they build and use construction toys with other children they are also building skills, learning mutual cooperation, and can engage in these activities for long periods of time.

Children express their own unique styles of play. The way they play when they are young often provides a glimpse into personality and reflects how they will deal with others during later life.
Allow children to select their own form of play, as selecting preferred choices are important for individual growth. Rigid rules can damper natural self-expression.

As parent and play tutor, honor your offspring's early learning domain. Inherent to this is providing appropriate skill-building toys. Adults sometimes forget the importance of play. Through their play, children tell us what they are thinking, how they are feeling and what they need.

If there are problems, play reveals them. Play Therapy can be an important way to help treat children who are having difficulty coping with traumas, emotional issues or other personal problems.
You can better understand children if you listen, observe what they select and watch them at play.

Learn more- Dr. Toy's Smart Play Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. (Play Quotient) Dr Toy's Guide-- -- and new App- Dr Toy's Best Gift Guide.

© 2013 Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, San Francisco, C