Play is important to the child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. Through play, children explore their world, develop new competencies, use creativity and imagination. Furthermore, play has the potential to facilitate social skills development, increase self-esteem, as well as enhance a sense of connectedness and resiliency. Often it is difficult for children, particularly the younger ones, to express themselves verbally; play offers a medium through which they can express their internal world.
Although children need time to play alone and with other children, playtime with parents is very important. Through play, a parent can better understand their child (including their perspectives, wishes and fears) and learn to communicate more effectively with their child, which are the building blocks for a stronger relationship. Play also has the potential to allow the child to feel understood by the parent, which might reduce misbehaviors stemming from attention-seeking or frustration at feeling misunderstood.
Here are some suggestions of how to facilitate effective playtime with your child:
Regularly schedule playtime with your child. During this period, turn off television, try not to get distracted with telephone, household chores, conversations with other family members, etc., and instead, allocate your undivided attention to your child.
Sit on the floor. Placing yourself at your child’s eye level allows the two of you to interact more effectively.
Provide your child with toys that encourage the use of imagination. In other words, choose toys that can be used in many different ways, such as puppets, animal figures, building blocks, etc. If your child does not want to play, that is okay – you can just spend the time being together.
Allow your child to lead the play; follow your child’s lead in choosing the theme of the game, making up rules, assigning roles, etc. Through child-led play, children develop creativity and leadership; they are also freer to express themselves. During this time, try not to lecture or teach your child; instead, play along and respond to your child in a way that follows from his/her initiative. Allow yourself and your child to pretend, get into their world and have fun.
At the end of the play time, tell your child when the next play time is likely to be.