Model of Development
At Play Matters we have used, and continue to use, this model to inform the content of programme. We believe that without the development of the basic skills: body awareness, focus and motivation, the underlying skills of muscle development, concentration, body coordination, motor planning, object permanence and eye movements would not occur. Thus by targeting the basic skills initially, we aim to engage and develop the underlying skills which then result in achievement of the developmental milestones.
Development & Stimulation
Human babies are born with very immature neurological systems. As they start to explore their bodies and the world around them they begin to develop physically and cognitively. After birth, a baby is completely dependent on their caregivers for nutrition, comfort and safety. These dependent little beings also need to be interacted with and stimulated in order to develop in an optimal manner.
The Play Matters programme is a series of developmentally appropriate activities that fuel and encourage normal development through encouraging the development of body awareness, focus and motivation. These three goals underlie the achievement of all physical, social and cognitive milestones.
Skills such as smiling, walking and babbling etc. are referred to as developmental milestones. Children reach their various milestones through playing which fosters learning, speaking, moving etc. Milestones are universally used as a means of tracking a child’s development and ensuring a delay is not present. Research has also shown that infants who are stimulated daily reach developmental milestones and become independent earlier.
Engagement & Stimulation
One of the most important play “toys” for a child is their caregiver. Any activity is only truly beneficial when done in an interactive way, in a trusting relationship, with positive emotional exchange and genuine interest from both parties. Play is not about “what you do” but rather about “how you do it”. A major focus in the Play Matters Play Programme as well in the creation of the Play by Play and Play Consult concepts, is to educate and empower caregivers to be an active participate in the child’s stimulation, a play partner and an engaging and reactive toy.
Repetition & Stimulation
It is up to the child’s caregivers to provide a stimulating environment. Research has come to prove that an infant’s environment has a significant effect on development. The amount of stimulation an infant receives in the first year of life directly affects how many synapses (neurological connections in the brain) are formed. Therefore the more time caregivers spend interacting with the children in their care, the more rapidly their physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development will occur. The infant years are consider the fundamental years in terms of developing a young brain.
Repetitive and consistent stimulation strengthens the synapses in the brain, making connections permanent. Should these connections be ignored or not used, they will fall away. But the level of stimulation the child is provided with needs to be age-appropriate and interesting for circuitry to be built thus enhancing learning. Stimulation or play MUST be fun to ensure everyone enjoys it and wants to participate.
It is important that play time be a part of every child’s daily schedule and caregivers are therefore in an ideal position to help encourage the formation of brain circuitry in our infants. However if stimulation is too advanced or similarly too easy, everyone is likely to become frustrated or bored and the infant may not benefit. While infants prefer humans above all toys (since we can speak, move and touch them), caregivers are often left a little lost or confused about how to interact with infants appropriately. While most everyday activities e.g. changing a nappy is stimulating for an infant, one does need to provide a variety of activities to foster optimal development as well as appropriate repetition of tasks.