Children use play time as a way to experiment with new ideas, express their emotions and learn valuable social skills. Very young children bond with their parents through touch, affection, eye contact, by listening to their parents’ voices and by playing games such as peek-a-boo. As children grow up their play time becomes more intricate. Through playing pretend with children or enjoying games together, parents can gain an insight into how their children are thinking and feeling. Here are a few ways that parents can join in with their child’s play time.
The first step to bonding with your child through play is to get them playing! Encourage your child by praising them for playing independently. Also be sure to acknowledge their play achievements. For example, if your child builds a house from blocks, let them know how great it looks. If they put together an outfit and dress up as a pirate, a fairy, a cook or something completely different, pay them a compliment to show that you think they’ve done a good job. Supporting children in play time will help to build their confidence and encourage them to try out new ideas.
Let Them Lead
When playing with your child, it’s really important to let them take the lead. A study by Elizabeth Bonawitz
showed that children who are taught how to play with a new toy are much less interested in continuing playing with it than those who discover how to play on their own. If children are left to figure things out for themselves, they will play for longer and try lots of different ideas. Ideally, parents would put themselves in their child’s shoes and pretend that the toy or game is totally new to them as well. This will show that you respect your child’s ability to be in control of play time. If your child looks stumped, try using leading questions such as: “What do you think this does?”
Enjoy Arts & Crafts
Arts and crafts are a fun and easy way for parents to spend quality time with their children. Projects can be as big or as small as you like, but remember to make sure that they are suitable for your child’s abilities otherwise they might lose interest. Simple tabletop activities such as colouring, drawing, finger painting or making a collage are good ones to start with. In the summer, children and parents can enjoy artsy outdoor activities
, such nature based art projects.
Around the age of 18 - 24 months, toddlers will usually show their first signs of playing pretend
. Copying family members or cartoon characters is a common type of pretend play for toddlers. Eventually they will take on more complicated roles and you might soon see your child acting the role of a cook in the kitchen, becoming an explorer in the garden or waving their magic wand as a fairy. Join in with them by taking on your own role and engaging in thoughtful conversation. This can be simple exchanges such as asking them what they’re cooking or what they’re looking for. Pretend play is an excellent way for children to build social skills and learn about emotions.
The best way for parents to be involved in their child’s play is to just be around and be interested in what they’re doing. Children love to play with their parents, so they will soon invite you into their imaginary world. Try to let go of your inhibitions and follow your child’s lead.
Soon, you’ll both be having fun!
Article supplied by Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum.
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