With summer in full swing, many families are enjoying less structured days rather than the busyness of the school year. It’s sometimes hard to resist the urge to fill in those empty squares on the family calendar. Instead, let your kids take the lead in choosing their own activities, more specifically, play activities. A pick up basketball game in the driveway, pirate ship building on the backyard swing set, a lemonade stand on the street corner all are learning activities in the context of play for children.
Play is an important part of a child’s job description. Through play, children explore their world, growing socially, cognitively, and emotionally. Unstructured play, without Mom and Dad acting as cruise directors, fuels creativity.
What are the benefits of play?
Social Playtime offers kids an opportunity to practice communication skills, learn to share, cooperate, resolve conflict, and build friendships. It’s a training ground for children to get along with others.
Cognitive Play provides hands on experiences, allowing your child to experiment and try new activities. When a skill is mastered, it can be built upon for more difficult tasks or applied to other areas of learning. Children are multi-sensory learners, using all five senses to investigate and examine their world. Developmental psychologist Erik H. Erikson stated, “The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.”
Emotional While playing, children often act out emotions they are dealing with in life. This is a great time to help your child put words to emotion as well as guide in problem solving. Step in when necessary with comments like, “I see you’re frustrated when the tower you built out of blocks tips over. hat happens if the base is bigger?”
Allow your kids to have unstructured playtime. They will come up with fabulous games and adventures. Remember the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” So say, “YES”, when your children ask you to join in the fun!
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful…”
By Becky Danielson, M.Ed.
Wife to Scott, Mom of 2
Co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting