The Power of Play

Why is it important to play with your child?

Children learn through play.  It is their language.  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 growing 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 results in them being better able to make and keep friends.

The most important first step in playing with your child is to follow the child’s lead.  You should be guided by their ideas and imagination but still get involved yourself!. You will find that when you sit back and follow the child’s lead, you give your child the chance to use their imagination and express themselves through play.  Once we as parents are interested and attentive to our child’s play, children become much more involved and interested and this in turn supports their creativity. By dedicating short, regular and specific times to play with our child, we are providing an opportunity for the development of our child’s confidence and communication skills. It can also be a lot of fun, and having fun with our children is an important part of building a strong and healthy relationship.

Tips for playing with your child:

  • Let the child lead the play.
  • Make sure the game is safe for your child and others.
  • Let the child change the game and for younger children let them change the rules.
  • Listen and respect their activity. Avoid asking questions e.g. What is this? What colour, shape, size etc. is this?
  • Describing what the child is doing, feeling and thinking helps the child.
  • Be attentive and help with the game without taking over.
  • Play regularly with your child so they know you have this special time together.
  • Allow for experimenting and mistakes.
  • Appreciate and encourage your children’s efforts.
  • Don’t compete with young children; this can discourage them from wanting to play with you.
  • Young children need to win more than they lose

Some ‘toys’ which are most valuable to young children are:

As well as toys that you can buy such as  sets of animals, toy people, cars, blocks etc.,  remember that  paper and paint , water and sand,  mud, pots and pans, pegs, wooden spoons, wooden blocks, old clothes to dress up, boxes of all sizes and shapes give children hours of fun. Make sure you have crayons, paper, non-toxic paint and paintbrushes, play-dough, safety scissors, etc. so that your child can express their creative side.

Wherever you are:

Remember that all children benefit hugely from play and as your child gets older they will continue to benefit from special, fun and enjoyable times together.

Provided by “Incredible Years Limerick”