The importance of play in a child’s multifaceted development cannot be overlooked. With changes in lifestyle and increased attention to academics, the opportunities for children to play has decreased. Also, with screen gadgets slowly gaining popularity over conventional playthings, the way children play is also undergoing a change.
However, through all these changes, what has remained unchanged is the impetus a child’s development receives when she plays with her parents. Robert D Strom, PhD, Director of Office of Parent Development International, Arizona State University, published his paper on parent–child play in Child Research Net in 2001. According to him, “There are unique benefits that come from parent-child play. Children gain a broader perspective than when they play with friends or alone. Whatever play theme children choose, parents can help them enlarge vocabulary by introducing and defining new words in context.”
Let’s look at some ways your child can benefit by playing with you.
- Learning key physical skills: By playing with your child, you can help her learn the key physical skills like running, throwing, kicking and catching. All these body movements contribute to a child developing proper gait and stance, and overall physical health.
- Imbibing moral values: Most parents know the fact that their children model themselves after them. However, parents don’t consider play a serious way of imparting moral values to their children. For example, while playing with your child, you can model moral values like trying hard to succeed and sportsmanship, enabling him to imbibe these values. And, by learning from you, when your child models these values, you can applaud his efforts to encourage him to stick to these values.
- Learning to communicate and establish goals: Playing with your child as a team offers your child the benefit of communicating with you and working towards established goals. While communicating with your child will help both of you understand each other, establishing goals to achieve during play will encourage her to plan and execute the strategy to attain the objective.
- Taking up challenges: After you set goals for your child, motivate him to accept the challenge and work his way out. Don’t allow him to leave the tasks midway and take the easy way out. This will help him learn to persevere and become responsible.
- Understanding teamwork: When you and your child play together, both of you need to work as a team to play well. Playing well requires both of you to understand each other and plan your moves. Thus, learning to plan and execute the game plan will help your child learn to play in tandem with his teammates.
To play well with your child and help him benefit from the experience, you should pay heed to certain things like mutual interaction, teamwork, and intervening only when necessary. Your objective should be to create an engaging environment that also gives your child the space to explore and learn.