When children play, they are developing intellectually, physically, emotionally and socially. Play helps them understand themselves and the world. However, a child at play is not aware of what they are learning in the process; a child plays because it comes naturally and it is fun.
Children need to spend time playing alone, alongside other children and with a parent. Parents cannot underestimate the value of playing with their child every day, even if only for a few minutes. Playing together helps create a strong bond between parent and child. It gives parents a chance to really know their child and countless opportunities to help them learn.
Here are some tips to get the most out of playtime with your child:
- Play serves its true purpose when it is child-led. Let your child decide what and how to play. Follow their lead and let yourself have fun. Encourage your child’s efforts and try not to criticize. This is a world of make believe.
- When playing with small children, talk about what you and they are doing. “You are building a very tall tower!” “You have the yellow giraffe and I have the brown lion.” At first, it may feel strange describing your play, especially if your child is too young to talk. However, you are helping them understand a variety of concepts and building literacy skills.
- Get outside often. Children need to run, jump and climb. Experience nature by rolling in the grass, digging in the sand or building in the snow. Children should get 60 minutes of physical activity every day and it sets a great example when parents are active too.
- You do not need many expensive toys to have fun. Use old clothes for dress up and empty boxes for stacking and building. A sheet or blanket makes a great fort and a wooden spoon or a plastic container becomes a musical instrument. Recyclable materials (paper, plastic bottles, tissue boxes and so on) can be transformed into fun craft projects.
- Enjoy quiet time with your child. Cuddle up with a book, play “I-Spy”, squeeze play dough, draw pictures, or look for shapes in the clouds.
Time spent playing with your child helps them develop a strong mind and body. It increases cooperation and coordination. However, most importantly, it is a chance to relax and enjoy time together, and maybe reconnect with the child inside of you.