Children learn by:
- Tasting, touching, seeing, hearing and smelling
- Watching and copying
- Playing and practicing
Play is one of the main ways children learn and build their skills – especially social and self-control skills. And, because it’s fun, children often become very absorbed in what they’re doing, which helps them hone their ability to concentrate.
Children need time to play alone, they need time to play with other children (without adult interference) and they need to spend time playing with adults.
When playing, children will often want to do something over and over and over again, because they’re wired to practice a skill until they get it right. So, it’s important to keep playing the same games with your children. Don’t play from a sense of duty; play should always be done for fun (if you play with your child without wanting to you’re not really playing, are you?).
Set aside all other distractions if you can. Put the phone away and be fully present. And if you feel you need to, give yourself a time limit so you don’t become stressed over other matters or feel trapped in an endless play-loop. At the chosen time give the child some sort of “once more then we stop” and then stop. (If the child cries and complains, that’s OK. High energy play, in particular, stirs up emotions. Let the child know you understand that they’re upset but that the play needs to finish.) Obviously, if the child starts hurting you or destroying things, end the play then too.
Don’t leave out high energy activities that make you both laugh. Most children love chasing and rough-and-tumble games with older children and adults. Typically, the adult and the child take turns at being the dominant player which teaches turn-taking, patience, problem-solving, creativity and social skills. And, it refills the child’s ‘physical contact quota’. Younger children, and especially babies, need lots of physical contact.
Research is constantly emerging about the positive correlation between physical activity and academic performance. So, time playing is time well spent!
There’s no way of knowing exactly how much time any particular child needs you to play with them – but it’s always more than none!
Make it fun, and play will forge deep bonds between you and your children and help them grow into wonderful adults.