Originally posted on Your Modern Family in April 2013, but it is back today to serve as a great reminder for all of us…
How to play with your kids and why play is so important: Many people ask me what a Play Therapist does and why I love my job. I have the privilege to go into homes and “play” with children. It has been studied and proven for decades that play is important in childhood development. Play is fun for the kids, but above that, it lends a way for them to express themselves and learn new skills. They can role play, learn about their feelings and show off what they have learned.
It is important for you, the parents or caregivers, to play with your children. When you get down on the floor (or wherever they are) to play with your child, you are showing them that you care. You are showing them that they are important to you. You are relaxed and happy (here are 10 secrets of a happy mom)
Many parents think that playing with their kids has to be elaborate and they put it off because of this (studies show). Playing with your children can be as easy or as involved as you want it to be. It will build positive self esteem in your child. It will help you bond!
Sing a song with your child while you are cleaning, driving in the car, or putting them to bed. Play ‘tickle monster’ when you are getting them down from their high chairs. Play “This little piggy went to the market” while you are putting their shoes on. Each one of these activities shows your child that you are involved. It will build their confidence. These 5 games, that you may have forgotten about, take just a minute or play sight word bingo or ABC bingo. They are a great learning tool!
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A great way to play with your child is to take them outside. You can take them to a park to swing, let them push a stroller around (all of our kids loved this and could have done it for hours in our driveway!), teach them to kick a ball and throw a ball. All of these things are teaching them about spacial awareness and developing their gross motor skills.
When working with a one year old, taking turns is so important. Play a game that provides this! Roll a ball back and forth, play peek-a-boo and let the child have a turn, or sing a song and let them fill in a word. Here are more activities for your 6-12 month old.
One tip that I want to share is from a book about raising a strong-willed child. This book said that when you play with your child, all that you really need to do is follow your child’s lead and talk about it. For example, if they are using a truck to push around blocks, tell them just that… “Oh- you are using that truck to push around those blocks! Great thinking!” If they start stacking them, say “Look at how you are stacking the blocks now.” Just tell them what they are doing. It lets them know that they have your attention, you are focused on them and you are enjoying being there doing THEIR activity.
One of the best play times at our house is bath time! They love it! We have a lot of toys in our bath tub: cars, trucks, shovels, buckets, measuring cups, medicine syringes, pretend pirates and little boats. Our kids could play in the bath tub for an hour or more! It is a fun way for them to explore! Add bubbles or keep it clear, throw in a few bath-tub crayons, give them a washcloth and teach them how to wash themselves (working on body parts). (here is what you need to know about cleaning & organizing bath tub toys)
Remember that everything that you do has a purpose. When you are playing, it may look like just play to your child, but you are teaching them, molding them, encouraging them…
This one is one of my favorites…
Image source: Koraorganics