Sandi Langham, LCPC

As a parent, are you ever amazed at your child’s art of playing? Are you intrigued at watching their creative play? As a parent of a one-year-old child, I am often curious and fascinated about how she knows how to play. Children do not need to be taught how to play but rather seem to possess a natural-born intuition about how to play. They seem to know how to even lead their own play and possess awareness about their preferences. They seem to desire to have fun and behave in a curious way. I’m always amazed at how my daughter seems experience laughter and joy over the most simple things in life like being tickled, music, dancing and playful movements, being in the presence of other children at the playground, or even certain simple textures or silly sounds. Of course they warm right up to the opportunity to play with other children as well as adults, and definitely their own parents.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children”. This blog post will explore the American Pediatrics Journal article, “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds”.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are a few of the other benefits of ensuring your child has a play time:

  • Allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination
  • Models to children how to interact with their world around them.
  • Helps children overcome their fears while practicing adult roles
  • Helps children develop enhanced confidence and resiliency
  • Assists children in learning to share, negotiate, resolve conflict, and learn self-advocacy.
  • Play helps children active physically and prevents early childhood obesity.

Ideally a mixture of both child-led play as well as parent-child play is optimal. As a working mother, I find this encouraging, so that I make sure that my daughter has times to play together, as well as times she can independently play. Often parents can experience guilt that they should play with their child all the time, but mixing the time up is okay. So parents can be assured that if they are making time for both types of play, that they are doing a good job and can let go of unrealistic expectations of themselves. If you are a parent who is trying to balance work-life balance, even an hour of play together each day can enhance your child’s development.

I appreciate and enjoy my time playing with my daughter though doing reading and puzzles focused on counting, letters, colors, and shapes, as well as music and dancing activities. According to research, this parent-child play time helps the child know the parent is paying attention to them, cares for them, can support them in their play, and guide their child. Independent playtime gives the child time to be creative.

Here are some helpful play recommendations for parents:

  • Offer a lot of “child-driven” play time for your child where they have the freedom to be creative.
  • Create a lot of active play with toys rather than “passive entertainment” of tv’s and computers.
  • Offer opportunities with “real toys” like blocks, dolls, and building pieces where they can create with their imaginations.
  • Spend time together with your child focused on listening, talking, guiding, and offering unconditional care and acceptance outweighs busy schedules packed with too many activities.
  • Parents can know that they make a difference in helping their child develop confidence, competence, problem-solving, and resilience.

So creating play time both together with your child as well as encouraging independent play time is healthy, so relax and enjoy them as well as your own time!

Reference

Ginsburg, K. (2007). The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. The American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182