Now that we all have to spend so much more time at home we are spending more time with our children. They most likely love this! We parents now have a special opportunity to spend more quality time with our children and play a part in creating positive, fun memories for them during this very challenging time.
Thinking of new things to play with our children can sometimes be very difficult. Advertising and social media put parents under pressure to have the latest store bought toys but spending quality time with our children does not need to cost money, just our time. It will be time well spent so how about trying something different and bring it back to basics!
The best types of games are the ones that involve the whole family. Whether this is a board game that you already have, telling stories (the ones we make up as we go are great), outdoor games, card games, playing dress up or singing songs doesn’t really matter as long as the children are in charge and everyone is having fun.
Let your imagination run wild! Cast your mind back to when you were a child – what games did you like to play? Talk to your children about these, they will really love hearing your stories and will even want to give some of these things a try. They will feel safe, loved, secure and important as you share fun memories from your childhood with them. As you play these games with them they will feel even more connected to you as you both will have this childhood memory in common.
Children learn so much through play. As they roll around on the ground, play pretend games or paint and draw, they test their physical strength, they set up problems and they find solutions; “Teddy has a broken leg, we must find ways of making teddy better”. As they talk, move and have fun, children are constantly learning. Their imaginations are expanding and they are learning how to relate with others.
When a child feels understood and appreciated by their parent during play, their negative behaviour decreases, their confidence increases and this in turn makes them better able to make and keep friends. The most important first step when playing with your child is to follow their lead. Let yourself be guided by their ideas and imagination but still get involved yourself. You’ll find that when you sit back and follow your child’s lead, you give them the chance to use their imagination and express themselves through play. Once we, as parents, are interested and attentive to our child’s play, they become much more involved and interested, which supports their creativity.
So run and whoop and holler as you play cowboys and Indians, make lots of noise and beat those homemade drums as you pretend you are part of a very famous band with the instruments you just made. Enjoy the magic of princesses, knights and dragons in the forts you build and revel in the conversations you have with your children as you go for walks (within 2km of your home and practicing social distancing) because they really do see the wonder in everything.
This article was written by Niamh Dalton, Co-ordinator of Incredible Years and a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.