How You Can Make Playtime Fun With Your Little Ones
Playtime is an important part of any child’s life, and for parents, playtime provides valuable time to spend with their children. With this in mind, it makes sense to want to make the most of playtime with your little ones.
Kids can have fun in so many different ways that the options for play are practically endless. However, the way adults play with children can have lasting impacts on them. In fact, some sorts of playtime can be extra beneficial for learning and development. These types of play are those that are most engaging to your unique child.
Here are a few tips for making the best of playtime with your child.
1. Let Your Child Lead
As adults, it can often be tempting to use your years of experience to guide your child. While this instinct is essential in keeping your child stay safe and healthy, it can sometimes interfere with play when you try to direct the experience.
Instead of trying to steer the direction of play, let your child take the lead. Child-led play allows children to make their own decisions about activities. As a parent, you don’t have to cede all control to let your child lead their play experience — instead, offer choices, such as indoor versus outdoor or painting versus reading.
Children who engage in child-led play may develop higher self-confidence and better leadership skills because they are given the power to influence their world. Child-led play can also be rewarding for parents, as it provides ample opportunity to ask questions and learn about the child’s interests.
2. Play Outside
Children today spend a lot of time indoors in front of screens. Though there’s nothing wrong with this in moderation, screen time shouldn’t be a substitute for good old-fashioned outdoor play.
Outdoor play comes with many benefits, including increased cognitive function, higher fitness, improved mental health, and better sleep. Plus, playing outside allows kids to experience the sometimes unfamiliar natural world, which could promote learning and curiosity.
If possible, consider taking your kids to play outside at least a few days a week. A backyard is a built-in play space. If you live in an urban area where the great outdoors is less available, though, parks and gardens are also great options. Even a simple walk around the block could be beneficial and fun.
3. Balance Fun With Safety
Nothing ruins an afternoon of fun like a stubbed toe or skinned knee. Unfortunately, play can get dangerous when it’s outside or unsupervised. 94 percent of parents feel concerned about the safety of outdoor play, which could help explain the steadily declining outdoor playtime seen in recent years. However, fears about safety shouldn’t prevent your little ones from having fun.
As a parent, it’s important to balance fun with safety. Luckily, it’s not hard to keep your kids safe during playtime. When on a playground, follow safety rules and guidelines and try to have an adult supervising your kids at all times. It could also be helpful to set consistent expectations to stave off disappointment when an activity is forbidden. For example, allowing no tree climbing may be easier to swallow than allowing only some tree climbing.
With just a few safety precautions, there’s no reason why your child can’t have fun outside. The key is finding a balance that keeps playtime fun for both of you.
4. Encourage Creativity
Art projects are popular activities for children, and for good reason. Fostering creativity can benefit your child by building fine motor skills, encouraging mental development and improving self-confidence through expression.
Like in child-led play, art projects are most valuable when children are making creative decisions for themselves. When you set up art activities for your children, find ways to emphasize the process over the product. For example, instead of showing your child how to paint a certain object, provide paints of different colors or even textures and see what they come up with on their own. Be sure to ask them about their thought-process while they’re creating.
By providing lots of creative options — and preparing for messy creativity — you can inspire your child to create now and in the future.
5. Make It Quality Time
One of the most rewarding parts of play for parent and child is getting to spend time together. Just because you should encourage child-led play doesn’t mean you need to be hands-off. Being present and asking questions is a great way to turn playtime into quality time.
Adults can learn a lot from their kids during play. Likewise, playing together can help kids feel appreciated. No matter how you and your little ones end up playing, it’s a valuable part of a parent-child relationship. Don’t be afraid to let your child take the lead and try new activities. You’ll likely end up having fun, too.
Jennifer Landis the writer and blogger behind Mindfulness Mama. She’s a proud mama and wife who writes about healthy living, fitness, yoga, and parenting. She loves peanut butter, drinking tea, distance running, and Doctor Who. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELanids.