This is a guest post by David Reeves.
Playtime is the highlight of almost every child’s day, which is why parents should make time for play.
Even wild animals seem to crave a break in the day for play. We see birds chasing each other through the trees and think, “I wish I could do that!”
Yet when our own children beg us for time to play, or to play with them, there are often so many other things to do and places to be that playtime gets delayed.
It is important to remember that the idea of play differs for every child. Some children love structured activity while others look for the time to break out of structure and even run wild in the yard or on a playground.
That means there is no right or wrong way to play. Some kids like to play alone while others seek out groups, organize games or recruit their siblings to play along with them.
Your children asking you to play with them may be the biggest complement they can give you. They are asking you to not only enter their world, but to help create it. Playtime opens up possibilities for imagination, inquiry and challenge.
The benefits of play include the alert state of mind many children experience when given the opportunity to invent, explore and verbalize on their own. Your child may not be able to explain the joys of playtime, but that does not mean they don’t feel them. When asked why they like to play, children are likely to give an answer as simple as, “I don’t know why. I just do.”
Play should not be rationalized, anyway—that means two things to any parent. You need to provide sufficient time for your children to play without making too many rules about how that play is designed. While researchers have delved into the mental, social and physical benefits of play, teaching those principles to children will not really improve what they do during playtime.
For example, the site LiveScience notes the top five benefits of play as follows:
1.Better behavior in classroom (or at home)
2.Learning team work and social cooperation
3.Appreciating the joy of movement
The only one that children really appreciate is that last point. Fun is what play is all about. If you don’t make time for kids to play, the old adage rings true: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The same holds true for Jill, too.
Sometimes a child will fight you over what you consider play and what they consider play. If you enter a room to find your children immersed in a video game with siblings or friends, it can be tough to propose they all go outside and find something “better to do.”
Better to think pre-emptively about playtime and know that given the chance, kids will settle into old habits or familiar routines. Or, they may become obsessed with the latest new gadget or trend.
The best guidance for parents is to think back to when you were a kid. What excited you about playtime? Sure, times have changed. But if you visit a playground today you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how similar the sights and sounds of children at play remain. The shouts and discussions, the chases and races—imaginations are at work and friendships are forming.
The same thing happens in the neighborhood where you live. Children need time to explore their world, and as long as your child knows general safety rules and you establish good communication channels, there is little to worry about as your child plays and interacts on your property or at a friend’s house.
Make time for your child to play and use the opportunity to discuss what they like to do. You can often learn a lot about your child’s mind by how they play and what they want to share. What better way to build long-term bonds than by asking them to share what makes them happy?
About the author:
David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Playland Inc. in Carrollton, GA. Playland Inc., is a total solutions manufacturer and supplier to many industries, with its roots deep in the park and playground markets including churches, schools, and day care centers. It has developed into the only company in its field to offer direct to all of its customers, the ability to purchase outdoor playgrounds, shelters, shade, indoor playgrounds, water slides and site amenities.