As life gets increasingly more expensive and parents have to work harder and longer to make ends meet, it can be incredibly easy for quality time with your child to take the best seat. A lot of the time, play feels like more of a chore and a waste of time to parents and will also feel less necessary when your child spends time at daycare or pre-school. The key thing to remember is that in most other areas, your child may be in a group of other kids where their individuality and personal goals may not be as concentrated on as you could personally achieve.
With changes in lifestyle and increased attention to academics, the opportunities for children to play has decreased. Screen gadgets are also gaining a lot of popularity over conventional toys and so the way children play is also undergoing a change.
Through all these changes, what has remained unchanged is the growth a child’s development receives when they play with their parents.
Play is essential to a child’s healthy development. Play is so important to optimal child development that “it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child” (Ginsburg, 2007). According to Dr. Michael Popkin, author of the Active Parenting series of parenting programs, playing with your child builds the child’s self-esteem, helps the child learn about the world, provides opportunities for the child to learn new skills, and builds the bond between parent and child (Popkin, 33).
However, there are many benefits to getting down to your little one’s level and enjoying some play with them.
- You develop their movement skills
There are fundamental movement skills that kids need to start developing at an early age so they can become physically literate. These are basic life skills that are as important as learning to read and write and can improve overall physical health. As the parent, you can take the time to ensure that these skills are achieved by your little one more than someone else can.
Playing with your child is one way to help him or her develop social skills and self-control. Children’s minds are like little sponges. They soak up everything around them. As they interact with parents and others, they learn how people behave in social settings. They also learn what’s acceptable by taking their cues from you.
In addition, research has linked parent-child pretend and physical play to the development of specific skills including:
- Working memory,
- Gross motor skills,
- Cognitive flexibility,
- Regulation of emotions, and
- Peer group leadership skills.
Moreover, while kids develop many of the above skills playing with their siblings, parents offer a child more mature and varied forms of play. Because adults know more about the world, playing with the adults in their lives widens children’s imaginations in ways that playing with other children, even older siblings, does not.
- You build their self-esteem
Research shows when you allow the play to be child-directed, children benefit in a multitude of ways. They can move at their own pace, practice decision-making skills, and discover what their own areas of interest are. Research also tells us that child-directed play improves a child’s self-control, the way they handle their feelings, and how they feel about themselves.
- You can bond with them
Brain development is strengthened by play. It is how children, at a very early age, engage with and interact with their world. As they explore and master challenges they build new competencies and skills which enhance confidence and builds resilience, both of which are needed to help them face future challenges in life. A child’s development is affected positively by consistent and loving relationships with parents as they interact through play. Quite simply, the bonds between parent and child are built and made stronger when playing together. Playing with your child offers benefits to you, as well. Science has shown that when parents play with their child, the hormone, oxytocin, is released. Oxytocin is associated with trust and relationship building. Another benefit of oxytocin is that it counteracts the effects of stress, reducing blood pressure, anxiety, and fear (Dewar, 2019).
Play is a win-win for both of you!
- You help them learn to communicate and establish goals
Playing with your child as a team offers your child the benefit of communicating with you and working towards established goals. While communicating with your child will help both of you understand each other, establishing goals to achieve during play will encourage her to plan and execute the strategy to attain the objective.
- You teach them perseverance
After goals have been set regarding the play activity with your child, you can motivate them to work through any challenges they face and keep coming up with different ways to work through the challenge. You can push them to keep trying and not take the easy way out. This will help them learn perseverance and become responsible.
- You help them understand teamwork
When you play together, both of you need to work as a team to play well. Playing well requires both of you to understand each other and plan your moves. Learning to plan and execute the specific game plan will help your child learn to play together with their other friends as well.
To help your little one benefit from the experience, you should pay heed to certain things like mutual interaction, teamwork, and intervening only when necessary. Your objective should be to create an engaging environment that also gives your child the space to explore and learn.
If you’re not sure how to play with your child, don’t worry! Lots of parents feel a bit awkward or silly, at first, playing pretend or engaging in childlike physical behaviour. All you really need to do to be a good playmate for your child, though, is actively observe, listen to her stories, support her chosen mode of play, and engage in conversation.
Be sure to provide mutual interaction without continually intervening or controlling the conversation. Allow your child to explore his environment and sensations. Let him draw you in. Then be engaged and collaborate, which will teach your child to do the same in his future interactions.
Check out some of our products to help your little one learn while playing.
Need ideas to get started? Begin by visiting these websites: