The Cambridge Dictionary says, “When you play, especially as a child, you spend time doing an enjoyable and/or entertaining activity.”
In recent times, the concept of play has been further incorporated into classrooms and at home. It is no longer a stand-alone activity that children do, but is also a means to help them learn and connect. There is just something about play that helps children see learning and relationships in a different way.
Children connect with their parents at a deeper level through play.
There are many benefits that play can bring, especially to young children whose minds are developing rapidly:
Play creates special opportunities for bonding between children and their parents. Children connect with their parents at a deeper level through play because this is when they see their parents coming into their world.
Such interactions create positive experiences that stimulate their brain. When we spend time playing regularly with our children, we will likely find that we are able to understand our children’s personality and thinking better.
Children who engage in pretend or imaginative play with their parents are better at self-regulation and emotional regulation. Play provides opportunities for children to learn essential skills such as turn-taking, resisting temptation to grab objects from others and persisting through difficult activities. It also helps children express and manage their negative emotions better.
These are important skills for school readiness and their psychosocial development. Moreover, when children are more adept at self-regulation, it makes parenting less challenging!
The early years of parenting are often physically demanding and emotionally draining, making it more challenging for us to regularly engage our children in play.
Children acquire language best through play, especially pretend play. They pick up and practise new words, learn to reciprocate each other’s actions and words and understand how communication works. Children who are regularly engaged in play have stronger communication skills as they grow, and can read and write better.
In the early years, the communication muscle grows in children as they seek to express their needs and wants. The better they are at communicating, the more we can understand them and guide their thinking.
While the benefits of play are apparent, engaging children in play is not as easy. The early years of parenting are often physically demanding and emotionally draining, making it more challenging for us to regularly engage them in play that requires emotional and mental involvement.
One possible way is to agree on a timeframe where we will give full attention to our children, and then leave them to play on their own after that. This gives children the assurance that their Dad and Mum still love to play with them, but also teaches them that their parents need a break as well.
Here are some quick and fun activities that we can engage our children with, even after a long day.
(Image: New Horizon Academy)
Stack paper or plastic cups into the shape of a pyramid on the floor, and using any ball you can find, roll it towards the stack of cups. The aim is to knock off as many cups as possible. Children are fascinated by how the ball can knock down this tall tower of cups and will strive to conquer them all. This is a low-prep game that brings about lots of excitement and fun in the home.
Choose a storybook that has a storyline and characters where children can pretend to be immersed in. As parents narrate the story, children can pretend to be these characters and act out the story. Stories come alive when children get to act them out, and they also get to practise their language skills when they recite their lines.
Furthermore, parents can reinvent the stories according to their own imagination. This will encourage children to activate their creativity and continue the story in their own words.
Popular titles you can try:
Paper Plane Race
Get ready some templates for plane-folding so that everyone can choose the design that they think will be the fastest. Grab some paper and start folding, and once everyone is ready, fly your planes.
You may increase the difficulty of this game by adding targets that are placed on the floor or hung up. These will be challenging not just for kids, but adults too. It will definitely be a fun one that will crack everyone up.
Board Games Night
I love board games! It requires no preparation and teaches many skills. Parents are freed from ‘executing’ because everyone must follow the rules that are already set. Parents can fully enjoy the game as much as the children do. Making this a family routine will add to your family’s core memory as the kids grow.
Form a circle, play a fast song and pass a ball around as quickly as you can. The objective of the game is to not be the one holding the ball when the song stops. As amusing as it sounds, children love to be the one holding the ball when the song stops; it just makes them feel extra special. Perhaps everyone else could then think of a silly forfeit to make it even more fun.
Play is beneficial for our children’s growth, but more importantly is something that they enjoy doing. As parents, we love seeing our children being in their element and showing pure joy on their faces as they play. It may be tiring and sometimes frustrating to still have to engage them after a long day, but play as an investment is never in vain.
Our efforts to engage them in play today will pay off when they are able to build a deep connection with us, communicate with us and grow in their self-regulation. Let’s keep playing with our children!