The importance of play shouldn’t be underestimated. It has a number of benefits for children and can help to build the parent-child relationship. Play helps children to learn who they are, learn about the world around them and what they are capable of. Playing with others also teaches social skills, such as turn taking, and helps to develop emotional understanding, such as empathy. In particular, play with parents can have a special role of building a strong relationship or attachment which can fill the child up with positive feelings.
At times of stress, when the parent-child relationship is not at its strongest, the child can draw from the positive feelings that they have stored up. Through play, you can build the self-confidence and self-worth of your child, you can help them to solve problems and develop their imaginations as well as vocabulary.
Here are some ideas about how you and your child can get the most from playtime:
- Follow your child’s lead: it’s the one time they can be in charge and make the rules, so let them be the boss of playtime.
- Praise and encourage your child’s ideas: hold back on the criticism and encourage your child’s creativity and imagination.
- Provide support for your child’s emotions: label their different feelings (e.g. excitement, frustration), and help develop their emotional regulation skills (e.g. being calm, waiting their turn).
- Be sensitive to the level and pace of your child’s play: choose age appropriate toys and play at your child’s pace, not yours.
- Set aside a regular (daily, if possible) 10 minute play time with your child.
Play can have a positive impact on children’s social, emotional and cognitive development, as well as strengthen your relationship with them, so what are you waiting for, get on the floor and start playing!
Dr Kanan Pandya-Smith