What parents need to know about developmental play

Therapist Julie Wright, MFT describes the importance of developmental, child-led play
Early Childhood Parenting Advice | What parents need to know about developmental play
KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

What parents need to know about developmental play

Well, you might hear this term developmental play and what you might think is oh my goodness, I have to do all these things. I have to teach my baby and I have to buy all these flashcards, and expensive toys but the truth is you don't. Research shows that the type of play that's the most beneficial fpr your baby is what we call child led, child centered, it's also called floor time. In our mommy me classes, we call it special playtime. And what this time is it's time for you to shift the dynamic from you doing things to your baby or trying to teach your baby something to getting down on the floor with them and letting them show you what they're interested in, what they're doing and you follow them. You follow them. You watch them and they start to feel that you are sharing in their pleasure and this is an amazing feeling to babies. It's developmental in that what they do grows over time. A tiny baby is just manipulating toys and looking at them, and you're just kind of doing the same thing with them. As they grow, their play starts to grow into rolling balls and turn taking games, and handing you things. And then the most interesting level play is imaginative play where they start to pretend. They start to play pretend. This type of play it's really important to stay in the stance of following your child because these are the moments where they're getting to pursue their passions and passions might be something that you think is ridiculous. My son had a passion for brooms for a long time and I thought oh my gosh, everywhere we go he's looking for brooms but I knew that it was important not to judge or shame him, or to dismiss him, but to let him do it. Next thing I knew we were into mummies. The next thing I knew we were into dinosaurs, and then finally we were into high end cars and I was going to all these car shows, but what you're doing when you follow your child is you're strengthening what we call the executive function part of the brain. This is the part of the brain that strengthens our attention span, our focus, our ability to regulate, our ability to plan something and follow through. If you think about all those things, those are all the aspects and the strengths in the brain that are not present when a child has an attention deficit disorder. So contrary to the idea of teaching your child and educating them, and buying all these expensive toys is this idea of very simply following them in their play and knowing that that's the very best way to strengthen the part of the brain that they're going to need throughout their entire life.

Therapist Julie Wright, MFT describes the importance of developmental, child-led play


Expert Bio

More from Expert

Julie Wright, MFT

Psychotherapist & Author

Julie Wright, MFT is a marriage and family therapist with an extensive background in infant mental health and early childhood development.  She trained at Cedars Sinai Early Childhood Center and co-developed a program for parents and babies from 0-3 at LA Child Guidance Clinic. Julie specializes in mindful parenting, sleep issues and attachment theory.  She also works in private practice with infants, children, parents and adults.  Julie lives in Los Angeles with her son and often visits family on the east coast.

Julie has written the book, "The Happy Sleeper," Penguin 2014 with her colleague, Heather Turgeon, MFT. The Happy Sleeper gives the topic of baby sleep a fresh perspective. Their approach moves beyond old school ideas like “sleep training”—it’s grounded in research and shaped by new thinking. The Happy Sleeper gives you a clear, easy-to-follow system for transferring the role of independent sleep to your capable child, as they have done for thousands of families in their clinical practice.

More Parenting Videos from Julie Wright, MFT >