Exploring the Wonder and Value of Playing with Your Child
When you are dealing with a child, keep all your wits about you, and sit on the floor. ~Austin O’Malley, 1915
Play is a child’s way of learning about self and others and then communicating these life experiences. For children, play is the primary form of communicating before the age of ten. Play is how children show adults what they think and how they feel. When parents engage in play it allows them to enter into their child’s world on the child’s terms. It offers them a window into their child’s life, how he or she makes sense of new experiences and recovers from life’s upsets. The benefits of playing with children are both reassuring and exciting. Play fosters closeness, confidence and connection between parents and children. Play helps children think for themselves and then gives them the confidence that you believe in them too. Play is a way to be close to your child and to reconnect after closeness has been lost.
Parents have varying perspectives on what play is, how important it is to development and what a parent’s role is in playing their child. There seems to be a general misconception amongst adults that play is an activity meant only for children. Maybe this idea comes from our own childhood experiences, rarely experiencing play with our own parents or other meaningful adults. Or maybe it is the result of play not being given significant value in a society where learning and productivity take center stage. With so little experience to draw from, many parents find the experience of floor play particularly, to be awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning. It can be difficult to slow down, refocus and enter into your child’s world of play. However, once you get the hang of it you will wonder why it took you so long to discover the wonder of play with your child. Understanding the benefits of play and finding the time and energy to enter a child’s world in this way creates meaningful parent-child relationships.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get started. Get down on the floor with your child so you are at eye level, facing them. Try to loosen up and relax. Remember you are getting ready to have a good time and your child is watching how you respond to playing with them. Join in your child’s play but let them lead the way (even if its play you would rather ignore). Listen carefully to your child’s words, watch their facial expressions and wonder about what they might be thinking or feeling. Enjoy yourself and this wonderful new way of connecting with your child.
Andrea Chatwin, MA, CCC
A Child’s Song Consultant, Educator and Therapist