Play is important to children. It is quite literally a child’s job to play, and here is why. Children use play to express feelings, make sense of their surroundings, connect with their loved ones, release difficult emotions, and process situations that occur.
In fact, one piece of advice I often offer to clients with young children during parent coaching sessions, is to ‘act out’ a scene with your child’s toys to help him cope with a difficult emotion. An example would be if your child begins to cry and tell you a story of something that happened at school, you can act out the story while repeating it back to him, helping him to process what happened and work through the emotion. When you reenact the scene, your child will feel heard and understood by you, which will strengthen your relationship.
This is only one way of describing how beneficial play can be for the parent-child relationship. There are many more, and I recommend reading Lawrence Cohen’s book, Playful Parenting.
In celebration of the importance of play, and as I find myself needing to put more time and energy into playing with my own children, I’ve made a list of ways we enjoy having fun together in my home.
- Hold a family dreaming session! Talk about goals, dreams, interests, and things you’d like to work toward!
- Take your child for a 1-1 outing
- Spend time in nature
- Take a stroll through your own neighborhood
- Throw a party, just because!
- Ask your child what he or she wants to do, and do that
- Play a board game
- Make silly jokes and use a playful tone during normal, daily tasks
- Go to a trampoline park and race your kids on the obstacles
- Dress up with them!
- Have a dance party
- Bake something together
- Do random acts of kindness for neighbors or friends
- Simple science experiments
- Build a fort (inside or outside)
- Color a picture
- Pull mattresses into the living room for a slumber party/movie night
- Create a spa day at home
- Minute to Win It style games
- Read a story and make a craft that relates to it!
- Create greeting cards for family members who live far away
- Act out a short play
- Make up your own story together
- Go to the local splash pad and splash along with the kids!
- Visit the library
- Explore a local museum
- Take a day trip to a nearby town and see the sights
- Collaborate and make a poster together expressing all the reasons you love each other
- Create an obstacle course
A prerequisite for me to be capable of playing with my children and being fully present is adequate self-care. There is much truth in the statement “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Be sure that you have given yourself what you need in order to be present and playful with your little ones. You deserve it. And so do they.