Playing with a 14-Month-Old Boy

Very challenging and demanding. Quite exhausting, too, over seven hours! The thing to remember is to see the world through his eyes and context. What is the environment he typically plays in? Then consider the possibilities which are embedded in the situation and do some of these, inviting him along with you. He will watch and- if you make the play open-ended and collaborative–will automatically jump in, too, to join you, sometimes putting more, new twists to the outside-the-box play you have initiated.

Combining toys in new and different ways demonstrates what kinds of things can be done that are more imaginative or creative, such combining block and ring play. Toddlers this age, learning to stand and walk, like movement also. They like being pushed on a toy vehicle of some kind. but always it is important to be supportive in comments and touches to let them know they’ve done well or are moving forward in whatever ways. A variety of play is good, too, Often they will move from one toy or play area to another as their fancy chooses or changes.

It is good to be on their levels, physically, on the floor though sometimes they will need ‘alone time’–after feeding works well–to play separately, such as in a playpen with perhaps a large book, an oversized stuffed animal, and a toy which plays a number of tunes–classical tunes–all work very well. The most essential thing is to play with the child on his level, imagining and thinking as he does, all the while introducing other, slightly different possibilities to show that the context (and the greater world) contain many possibilities, especially if you try different things. These are the first basic steps toward nurturing creativity and imagination. And, of course, what will happen is the child will begin to introduce his own nuances and types of play.

I should add a word about performances. Children perform as they play; they try out roles and parts and the parent or grandparent should, too. Children enjoy performances, the simple efforts to entertain and relate to them. The only thing an adult performer needs to be is to think and imagine like a child and to admit the child into the performance with some give-and-take, leaving possible roles for the child. The performances may include everything from simple whistling, handclapping, unconventional hand and finger movements (especially for infants), to singing or recitation.

A word about books. Simply making available cardboardish page books, opting for books that don’t necessarily have words, oversized books, books with moving parts or unusual physical constructions open up an interest in reading. Given the above, children will go to books on their own, pulling them out of book baskets, pulling them over to you to read with them. They will read by themselves, opening the books and turning the pages on their own once they are shown how that works. They will drag books everywhere to couches or tables to read while standing, They will treat them the same as toys. And they will soon start making sounds if left by themselves with books in playpens, for instance, in their own worlds, beginning to explore language vocalizing.

Yes, playing with a 14-month-old is full of learning and growth possibilities. And the role of parent or grandparent is to help open up these possibilities through play, collaboration, performance, modelling, and a little teaching. Did I mention that playing with a 14-month-old is ultimately a test and challenge of oneself, one’s own imagination, creativity, and free thinking and feeling, as opposed to customary, limited, limiting modes of adult sensibility and response?

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