I often watch my son play, and
wish I could crawl inside his brain. He is in his own little imaginary play
world, whispering dialogue to himself, and I want to be a part of it! This is
why I am thankful that I have a career that allows me to participate in
children’s play. However, many adults do not feel comfortable playing with kids, for
Most commonly, parents tell me
that they have a hard time knowing “how” to play with their kids. This is especially true for
moms playing with sons, and dads playing with daughters. Moms don’t understand how to play with army men and build a
bunker, and dads don’t know how to set up a
tea party with stuffed animals.
However, lack of experience
with opposite gender play does not have to prevent parents from engaging in
play with their children. In fact, with a few simple skills, you can enjoy
playing and allowing your child to teach you how to play. Here are some tips for future playtimes.
role of the assistant. When you enter
into your child’s world of play, it is important to respect her stories. When she plays, she invents and imagines elements to create something.
Be careful not to take over. Let her direct your involvement, with statements
like: “How do you want me to play?” or “What should I do?”
2.Let your child identify and name the toys. It
is easy to watch a child playing, and assume you know what he is doing or
why. Your child is wrapping a doll in a blanket, and it seems logical to say, “The baby must be cold.” But,
these types of statements actually influence and direct kids away from their
original ideas, since it might have been a caterpillar making a cocoon to
emerge as a butterfly. Make sure you let your child explain and tell you what
he is doing, with statements like, “I
wonder what that is.”
3.Allow your child to struggle or figure things out. It
is in the very nature of parents to want to do things for children to make things
easier and avoid hardships. In the context of play, though, this is counterproductive.
When kids are forced to overcome a challenge or have to work to figure
something out, they are building self-esteem, self-confidence, and mastery. It
also develops imagination and critical thinking. So, when your child cannot
open the play-dough container, resist the urge to take over and do it.
Encourage her efforts, with statements like: “You
keep trying to get that off” or “You aren’t
giving up, even though it is hard.”
With these simple techniques in mind, you will discover that kids love to be in charge and will gladly
show you how they want you to participate in their play. What’s more, you will know that your children are gaining
valuable competencies as they play with you, and you can witness their
exploration and discovery as a fellow playmate!