Playtime is a vital part of a child’s job description. Through play, children explore their world, growing socially, cognitively, and emotionally. This happens through both unstructured and structured playtime. Organized sports, lessons, and activities are great, but family time is greater. I know it can be hard to hard to resist the urge to fill in those empty spots on the family calendar with activities and classes for children. Instead, choose to play.
Unstructured play, without Mom or Dad acting as cruise directors, fuels creativity. Children will come up with fabulous games and adventures, and you’ll be invited to play too. Remember the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” So say, “YES!” when your children ask you to join in the fun.
Here are the three major benefits of playtime for all ages.
Social Play offers kids an opportunity to practice communication skills, learn to share, cooperate, resolve conflict, and build friendships. It’s a training ground for children to get along with others. Mom and Dad build the foundation for relationships, sportsmanship, and even activity levels in kids.
Cognitive Play provides hands on experiences, allowing your child to experiment and try new activities. When a skill is mastered, it can be built upon for more difficult tasks or applied to other areas of learning. Children are multi-sensory learners, using all five senses to investigate and examine their world. Developmental psychologist Erik H. Erikson stated, “The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.”
While playing, children often act out emotions they are dealing with in life. This is a great time to help your child do two things: put words to emotion and guide in problem solving. Step into your little one’s world with comments such as, “I see you’re frustrated when the tower you built out of blocks tips over. Let’s see what happens if the base is bigger.” For tweens and teens, share your love for hiking, biking, and other recreational activities. Tell the kids about your past experiences as a kid with your parents. Share successes and failures from your past on the playing field to let them know you empathize and understand how they feel when they are not chosen for the team or lose the big game.
The best reason to play with your children is to have fun. Whoever coined the phrase, “Families who play together stay together,” is exactly right. Play is important for kids, moms, and dads!
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