“How can I make sure I’m filling my child’s love cup?”
Play is pleasurable.
Play is intrinsically motivated.
Play is non-literal.
All children need play.
As an adult, do you understand your imperative role in play?
It is this simple: You [the adult] can follow a child’s lead or offer gentle guidance, but play is at its richest when children are in charge.
Children learn best through play. Play is the only thing children have control over. The only thing they can manipulate. The only thing they can make theirs.
Have you ever sat and truly watched your little one play? You know, the deep play, where they’re just embedded in what they’re doing. Notice the absolute joy in their face, body language, and voice?
Play is work for children. It’s imperative. It helps them stay grounded + centered. This is why play therapy is such a huge deal.
When your child asks you to play with them, they could be feeling:
A need to connect with you
A need to feel seen
Often times we forget that young children, too, can feel these extreme feelings. It’s easy to push it to the side and chalk it up as [she always wants to play] typical toddler behavior. When you think about it, how else can they express these feelings if they don’t even understand them? Play offers a sense of happiness + it's a stress reliever.
So why is play so important and how does that help the relationship with my little one?
Play is voluntary. The act of play, itself, is more important than the outcome. [Does it really matter if they pretend the block is a dinosaur or the car is a boat or the pencil a dollar?]
Play is a central component in developmentally appropriate practice according to the NAEYC. Play helps to build feelings of empathy and offers creativity and collaboration. All important life skills. All too often we hear: I'm doing this to prepare my child for adulthood and it is done in ways that benefit the adult. This should be done in ways that benefits the child and that is through play.
What should I know about the importance of play?
“Through play, children are developing skills in cognitive, physical, communication, and social/emotional development.
Play promotes healthy habits by engaging children in the world around them [this is why many kids shows/songs sing about eating fruits and vegetables and making it fun- children want to feel included in choices that concern them]
Play is an outlet that allows children to work through their fears , stress, and anxiety
Children can make their own decisions during play; they begin to make connections between their choices and the natural consequences of those choices
Play allows opportunities for them to regulate their feelings, delay gratification, and negotiate with others, all important aspects of developing self-control
Play helps children develop mindfulness as well as feel safe and secure to try new ideas and experiment.”
What is my role in play and why is it important?
Play time can be enhanced by the presence of a caring adult. Your child may use your attention to figure out a tough situation, re-enact a doctor’s visit, ask questions or try something new and challenging, like walking on a balance beam, using scissors, or pouring water into a cup.
In order to accomplish this, experts say that you should "set aside an hour as often as you can each week to spend some quality play time with your child and do exactly what he or she wants to do. Your child leads the play time and you follow. That means if your child wants you to sit in the sandbox with her, you do it. Or if he wants you to play the baby and he plays the mommy, you do it.”
Ultimately, it’s not about us- the adult. It’s about helping our children become more confident and develop the skills and courage that they need in a way that they understand.
Your presence simply enables another level of meaningful play to happen.
Set aside 30 minutes to an hour of play time with your child every day. No phone, no TV, no distractions and dive into their world of play.