Play is one of the most important needs your child has. As adults, we may have forgotten all the benefits and enjoyment we received from play during our much younger years. An important part of play for young children is play with parents. Children who have spent a significant amount of their early development in an institutional setting likely did not receive much one on one playful interaction with adults. The absence of such an important interaction is likely seen in some areas of their development. The benefits of play for children and parents include:
- It is one of the ways children learn about and practice living in their world and their culture.
- It helps children to manage their feelings and to cope with upsetting things that happen in their life.
- Parent-child play helps build relationships, promotes bonding and attachment among family members and improves communication with your child.
- Play is fun and relaxing for both the parent and child.
Some of the skills young children learn through play with their parents are:
- Intellectual development – Sorting toys – learning about number and groupings; Puzzles – learning about shapes, sizes and numbers.
- Social/emotional development – Playing alongside others and watching them; playing cooperatively with others; role playing mother and father roles; copying adults and practicing adult tasks; pretend play with dress ups using imagination; simple games for learning how to follow directions and rules.
- Motor skills – Pushing and pulling toys; riding on toys; picking up small things; throwing and catching; climbing toys, using a paint brushes or crayons; music and dance, hopping, running.
- Developing Language – Watching, listening and imitating your voice and language helps your child begin creating and formulating his own words and sentences. Then he will begin using language for purpose, to communicate his needs and wants and to share information.
Here are some tips for play with your young child:
- Follow the child’s lead but make sure the game is safe, don’t allow it to get out of control.
- Play with the child but don’t take over, let the child change the game.
- Talk about what the child is doing and encourage, eg. “It looks like the spaceman wants to rule the world. What are the people going to do?”
- Allow plenty of time based on the age and development of the child.
- Allow for experimenting and mistakes.
- Don’t compete with young children; this can discourage them from wanting to play with you.
- Appreciate and encourage your child’s efforts, eg. Display their works of art.
Play Ideas for Parents:
- Read stories and nursery rhymes – an all time favorite for generations.
- Hide and Seek – make sure you are easy to find if the child is very young.
- Go for a Walk – listen to different sounds (eg., birds, cars, footstep, animal noises, find different surfaces to walk on , eg. Lawn, gravel, leaves, etc.
- Songs and dancing together.
- Pretend play – let the child decide who will play which role and allow them to make the rules.
- Dress up
- Simple card games
- Let your child make up his/her own game, explain the game to you with the rules
- Swings and other play equipment.
Parent-child play can benefit children of all ages. Traditionally, we think of play as only for younger children, but play can also provide the same benefits for older children in much the same way it benefits younger children. Play with older children can be in the form of a Family Game Night. Below are some sites that provide ideas for a family game night where all family members can participate and play.