What is play?
Play is one of those activities many adults lose touch with. It is a unique activity whose purpose is solely just to play. Play is a way for children (or people in general) to express themselves without judgment. This is key. We live in a world where we are constantly giving or receiving feedback whether it is direct or not or from our employees, family, friends, and even a stranger in line at the grocery store. There is nothing wrong with feedback, after all, it’s how we grow. But when is the last time you played simply just to play? When is the last time you did something just for fun, where there wasn’t an end goal in mind like having to burn a certain amount of calories or to run a mile in under 10 minutes?
Do you recall playing with your parents? What purpose does play serve alone? What about with friends? The gift of quality time is priceless. A true gift. When’s the last time you played?
How to play
The pressures of the outside world and the business of our lives can make it difficult to find or make the time to connect with loved ones. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible nor valuable.
Children use play to communicate. So finding ways to join with them in a way that is fun is a great way to connect. However, it needs to be something they want to do. Video games are an option, though there are benefits to unplugging for these precious 15 minutes each day and having direct contact with your child. Jump in with a game of tag, a board game, with figurines or cars, arts and crafts or hide and seek. Not only are you playing with your child, but you are also modeling how to jump in with others when they may want to play or make a new friend.
What does play do for a child?
Play provides a space of safety. To explore and process different ways of interacting or solving problems through the use of imagination and creativity.
Aside from ensuring safety, let kiddo lead. We ourselves live in an adult world which also means our children do too. Unless choices are intentionally offered, children rarely have a lot of choices. Think about it: we wake up at a certain time and need to eat breakfast, put on clothes, leave for school, run errands, etc. Children are often running on schedules and routines (which is great for them!), but play is often one of the rare occasions where they are leading on their terms and are in no rush. They get to be in their element. Playing is important for a child’s growth. It offers chances to share, communicate, imagine, be creative, learn, problem-solve, among so many other things.
Remember, this undivided attention (no phones, tv, etc.) is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give your child. What does this gift tell your child? Conscious or not, they may internalize some, if not all of the following: “Wow, mom/dad/caregiver sees me and loves me, no matter what. I know I can express myself and they’ll still be there for me. They believe I’m capable of solving problems. They think I am worthy because they’re spending time with me to do what I want to do. I am enough. I am fun to be around, so I know I can make new friends. I feel safe. I love my caregiver.”
Setting aside 15 minutes of dedicated play can have a huge impact on your child’s life, their behavior and even your parenting. Play is an outlet for connection and it helps build a foundation of trust, safety and love- essential tools for your child’s relationships later on in life!
What does play do for you?
Let’s face it, we as adults are faced with decisions all day. So why not let your child take the reins for a little bit? Children are astoundingly creative. You might be surprised at how much fun you both can have with your combined imaginations, even with a few random materials found throughout the house or outside!
So next time you’re considering what to do today, choose play.