How to play with your child and why playing with your children is important. Tips and tricks on the importance of play with your child when you don’t feel playful.
How to play with your kids and why play is so important: Many people ask me what a Play Therapist does and why I love my job. I have the privilege to go into homes and “play” with children. It has been studied and proven for decades that play is important in childhood development. Play is fun for the kids, but above that, it lends a way for them to express themselves and learn new skills. They can role-play, learn about their feelings and show off what they have learned.
It is important for you, the parents or caregivers, to play with your children. When you get down on the floor (or wherever they are) to play with your child, you are showing them that you care. You are showing them that they are important to you.
How to Play With Your Child
Many parents think that playing with their kids has to be elaborate and they put it off because of this (studies show). Playing with your children can be as easy or as involved as you want it to be. It will build positive self-esteem in your child. It will help you bond!
1. Sing Together.
Sing a song with your child while you are cleaning, driving in the car, or putting them to bed. Play ‘tickle monster’ when you are getting them down from their high chairs. Play “This little piggy went to the market” while you are putting their shoes on. Each one of these activities shows your child that you are involved. It will build their confidence.
2. A great way to play with your child is to take them outside.
You can take them to a park to swing, let them push a stroller around (all of our kids loved this and could have done it for hours in our driveway!), and teach them to kick a ball and throw a ball. All of these things are teaching them about spacial awareness and developing their gross motor skills.
3. Take Turns.
When working with a one-year-old, taking turns is so important. Play a game that provides this! Roll a ball back and forth, play peek-a-boo and let the child have a turn, or sing a song and let them fill in a word.
4. Take Their Lead and Talk Through It
One tip that I want to share is from a book about raising a strong-willed child. This book said that when you play with your child, all that you really need to do is follow your child’s lead and talk about it.
For example, if they are using a truck to push around blocks, tell them just that… “Oh- you are using that truck to push around those blocks! Great thinking!”
If they start stacking them, say “Look at how you are stacking the blocks now.” Just tell them what they are doing. It lets them know that they have your attention, you are focused on them and you are enjoying being there doing THEIR activity.
5. Take Advantage of Bath Time.
One of the best play times at our house is bath time! They love it! We have a lot of toys in our bathtub: cars, trucks, shovels, buckets, measuring cups, medicine syringes, pretend pirates, and little boats. Our kids could play in the bathtub for an hour or more! It is a fun way for them to explore! Add bubbles or keep it clear, throw in a few bath-tub crayons, give them a washcloth, and teach them how to wash (working on body parts).
Remember that everything that you do has a purpose. When you are playing, it may look like just play to your child, but you are teaching them, molding them, and encouraging them.