Playing isn't just fun, it's also the best way for young children to learn about the world around them. By playing, children can practise all the skills they'll need as they grow up.
To grow and develop, children need time and attention from someone who's happy to play with them.
Parents should make the time to play with a first or only child. And while brothers and sisters are natural playmates, parents can also play an active role in siblings' games.
It can be hard to find the time to play with your child, especially when there are many other things you need to do. Gradually, children learn to entertain themselves for some of the time.
If you're pressed for time as a parent, it's a good idea to find ways to involve your child in what you're doing – even the housework.
Children learn from everything they do and everything that's happening around them.
Get your child involved in everyday activities
When you're washing up, let your child join in – for example, by drying the cutlery. When you cook, show them what you're doing and let them help out with some of the simple tasks.
Getting them involved in the things you do will teach them about taking turns to help and being independent. They'll also learn by copying what you do and with their fine motor skills.
Sometimes things have to happen at certain times and in the right order, it's important that your child learns this. Clearing up the toys after playtime can be as much fun as playing with the toys in the first place.
There's no rule that says clearing up has to be done before you go to the playground, especially if the sun's shining and your child's bursting with energy.
As far as you can, move things around to suit both your and your child's mood.
Tips for playing with young children
Get together lots of different things for your child to look at, think about and do.
By making what you're doing fun and interesting for your child, you can get your household jobs done while they're learning.
Have times when you focus completely on your child. Talk about anything and everything, even what to put on the shopping list. By sharing as much as possible, your child will pick up lots of new words.
Give your child plenty of opportunities to use their body by running, jumping and climbing, especially if you don't have much room at home.
Find other people who can spend time with your child when you really need to focus on something else.