Kids need to play. Our culture tries to push kids into organized activities early on, and soon their schedules are filled with school, sports, lessons, and competitions. What down time they have is often spent watching TV, playing video games, or on the internet. Even very young children are quickly caught up in this pattern.
Here are two types of play that are beneficial to kids:
- Unstructured play. This is where the kids are given time and opportunity to play freely amongst themselves or alone - without TV or other media to distract. Giving kids time to play on their own early on helps teach them how to entertain themselves so you don't have to hear "I'm bored!" over and over again when they get older. On the other hand, kids who are constantly entertained by TV, video games, shopping trips, or even well-meaning caregivers are more likely to find themselves "bored" because they don't know how to keep themselves occupied. Another good way to prevent boredom is teaching your kids how to work, but I'll save that topic for another day.
- Play with caregivers. There are parents out there who enjoy playing with their kids, and there are parents who hate it. Even if you hate playing with your kids, you can choose to do it for their benefit. It will show them that you care about them, it will help you enter their world, and you will be able to teach them new ways to play. Don't assume that your child will know how to play with a ball or a top. Teach them how to roll that ball across the floor or spin that top until all the colors on it blend together. At other times, let your children direct the play so you can find out what interests them and get to know them better. When my kids are pestering me to play with them, I find that spending fifteen to twenty minutes doing just that is more rewarding than spending half-an-hour to an hour putting them off while I try to do my own thing. Yes, there are times to say "no" to your kids and tell them that you need to do something important. But there are also times to put your kids' need for your focused attention ahead of your own desires.
Tip for the day:
Read this article on the benefits of play: 11 (Not So Surprising) Benefits of Play by Dr. Michele Borba.