It’s that time again and love is in the air. How do you show your littlest Valentines how much you care?

For moms, love is in the million tiny actions you do every day. A (very) partial list: wiping up spilled milk, slicing the lunchtime grapes in half, singing their favorite song each time it’s requested, reading the same few favorite books—in the morning, before nap time, before nighttime story and song… and it’s also in the connection made during play time.

Playing with your child is important for your little one’s healthy development and is another way to share your love. Various studies have found that play is the primary way children develop social skills.

Whether you’re outside exploring the woods, conquering the next DIY project at the kitchen table, or exploring a virtual game, you want to help your child gain a sense of curiosity and wonder at the world.

For more families today, “play” has a different meaning than it has for previous generations. Play can take place in the virtual world as well as the physical world. The phone or tablet can be a place where your little one can have many adventures and engage in play that is artistic, exploratory, and fun.

More and more apps are becoming more multi-player and sensory-oriented; your child can engage in digital play with a friend or parent just as they would playing blocks or reading a book together. In fact, the line is blurring between “virtual play” and “physical play” as certain apps involve your child manipulating 3-D objects in their very own digital world.

Apps that showcase a world with unique characters and scenarios that take place in everyday environments–such as a mall, restaurant, or school—provide a familiar experience. Through this lens, a child is able to explore and engage in pretend play to create their own stories. Vocabulary is increased as the child recognizes familiar words, and then learns new words through the play of the game.

Additionally, since open-ended apps and games engage your child’s sense of play, they encourage your little Valentine to keep going until mastery of a certain skill is obtained, while instilling in them a “never give-up” attitude.

You love your child more than anything and monitor every aspect of their life–how much they eat, sleep, how they socialize and engage with friends on the playground–and on and on. Whether you’re playing together–sharing digital games that are parent-approved, educational, and fun–or teaching your child to play independently, you’re helping them explore their environment and, in the process, build social skills and learn.

However your child plays, take the time to share that experience together to create a strong bond that can positively impact them well into their future. It’s just one more way you show your love this Valentine’s Day.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Dr. Panda