By Marcia Hall
At the end of a long day many parents don’t have the energy to pull out a board game, put together a construction set or sit on the ground and play with dolls. With having to cook dinner, clean the dishes, fold the laundry, answer the phone and take out the garbage, spending time with your kids can end up on the bottom of the evening’s list. After all, the rewards for finishing the household chores are obvious and immediate. However, the effects of spending time playing with your children are just as real and will certainly last longer.
Through play children learn how to cooperate and share with others. The only way a child learns to share and play nice with others is through observation and interaction with people. Play is a great opportunity to show by example how to work with someone else even when you don’t agree with them. While playing with your child, do not shy away from disagreements and do not always let your child have her way. Help her learn to cooperate with others by having to figure out how to cooperate with you. Role playing can teach a child lessons that are difficult to teach through conventional means.
Playing with mom or dad meets the need for attention children have in a positive way. Children may act out with negative behaviors because for some reason they are in need of attention. When this need for attention is not met in a positive way, the child will begin to look for other ways to get that need met. This could be through behaviors like not following directions, doing things he has been told not to and even hitting. Playing with your child will feed his very real need for attention and will help to make the “acting out” behaviors less frequent.
Parents will learn to understand and respect the challenging perspectives of their child. There are many ways parents disagree and argue with their children. In heated moments it is very easy to misunderstand a child and her opinion. Playing with a child helps parents gain more of their child’s perspective. Through time spent together parents can understand why a child might act in such strange ways or at least soften their hearts to not be quite as irritated.
Parents will understand to a greater degree the pressures their child is facing every day. During lighthearted play a child will often let out her greatest worries and concerns. It might be very difficult for her to verbalize why she is worried about a particular problem but often times those feelings reveal themselves when she plays. During playtime parents should listen closely to these cues and use the playful atmosphere to reassure and comfort her.
Time spent together in play helps a child connect and get to know his parents. Life moves fast. Parents often say “It seems like he was just my little baby and now look how big he is.” Parents will never look back at their life and say “I should have kept the dishes cleaner” or “I should have answered my phone more.” However, if parents don’t take the time out of their busy lives to play with and engage their child, some pretty amazing opportunities might be missed. This time together not only helps parents understand, support and love their child more, but it will help the child know the parent to a greater degree which will help him become a well-balanced and emotionally whole adult