It is a situation that is familiar to all parents: the laundry has to be done, the dinner needs to be prepared, an important call is long overdue… and their little one is loudly demanding “Play with me!”
Parents often feel torn between their everyday responsibilities and the desire to play with their children. The typical adult distinction between obligations and fun is one that is unknown to children. For them, everything can be exciting and part of a game – doing a puzzle, splashing in a puddle, laying the table, cleaning and many other household tasks. For children, playing and learning are two sides of the same coin.
Play is a basic need for children and it is as important to child development as sleep, food and drink. In play, children develop their emotional, mental and physical abilities and that is true for every child. Play is healthy and it is the best nurture for your child; it is in play that children find the stimuli they need specifically for their development. In play, children discover the world, develop social skills and find out how things work, what they are for and what they mean.
In play, children discover and experience themselves, develop pride and confidence, and understand their limits. When playing, children develop, practise and reinforce basic abilities, skills and knowledge in a wide range of developmental areas.
However old your child is: keep taking the time to play with your child and to get involved with your child’s play. Everyone is different and we all have our own way of responding to the play needs of our children. Some parents like to play, others less so, many simply don’t have much time. Whatever the case: there is no need for you always to have schedules or prepared play ideas for your children. Your children are full of their own ideas – just get involved with the play ideas of your children! Let them direct and allow yourself just to be a good playmate. And: less is often more! Your children will prefer it if you play briefly but give them your undivided attention than if you join in only half-heartedly.
Both your children AND you yourself can benefit from playing together. When you play together, you have the chance to experience something together, to communicate and to share excitement and pleasure.