We all know that children love to play. But what many people forget is that playing is the best way for children to learn! Incorporating learning into play is much simpler than you might think.

Children learn best through personally meaningful play experiences. It’s important to give your child opportunities throughout the day for independent play and play with others. Creating an environment at home that is full of rich experiences will make playtime fun for you and your child.

Pretend play, such as using Thomas & Friends toys, helps your child develop imagination and a sense of curiosity. My son loves playing with the Thomas & Friends driving set. He uses it, blowing the whistle and shouting, “All aboard!”

The best way you can help foster your child’s development during playtime is by being present, letting your child lead playful experiences and being intentional in the language of your dialog together.

Read on for specific examples of ways to make playtime learning central at your house:

  • Your child is lining up cars in a row. Foster learning in this experience simply by lining up cars beside them. Follow your child’s lead about what to do with the cars next. Use language when talking about the cars such as, “I put the red car first, the blue car second and the green car last. I have one, two, three-three cars!”
  • Read out loud together. Read to your child and let your child “read” to you, even if they can’t read! It’s important to let children make up their own stories related to the pictures in a book.
  • Provide opportunities for open ended play with things such as blocks, art supplies, and dress-up clothes-play where your child is in control of how to use the materials and there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to use them.

Sometimes it is also good to step back and watch your child play without interfering. Your child will let you know when he or she wants you to join in the play!

Also, establish routines throughout your day-all the way up to bedtime! My son loves Thomas and Friends books at bedtime!

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mattel. The opinions and text are all mine.