We hear it time and time again…..”Mommy, plaaaay with meeee……”
I can give you seven reasons to play with your child.
But it’s hard to remember those reasons while you are washing the dishes, doing the laundry, making supper or scrubbing toilets.
It’s hard to remember seven reasons to play with your child while you are helping another child with homework or preparing to leave the house.
And it is especially hard to remember seven reasons to play with your child when you first come home, after a long day of work.
There is always a million other things – grown-up things – that need to get done. The chore list never ends. In this crazy, busy lifestyle we all have, there is little precious time to pay the bills or change the oil on the car. So when we hear those four innocent little words, “Mommy play with me,” we cringe.
And yet play we must.
“Your kid does not play just to amuse himself. He is building his brain!”
My husband, early on in our marriage, taught me the importance of play.
I recall one day, mid-summer, when the older kids were young, when I was way behind on my weeding – it was hard to balance a job, children, household responsibilities and the added garden work that inevitably accompanies summer. I had finished the garden the day before, and was bent on tackling the flower beds on this particular day.
A new putt-putt had opened up in a neighboring town – the first and only mini-golf the town had to offer. At age six, my baby loved putt-putt. He wanted to go. His brothers wanted to go. My husband wanted to go. I did not. I had too much to do.
My husband, in his wisdom, (gently) made me go. He assured me that the weeds would still be there when we got back, and he would help me pull them. He also kindly reminded me that our kids would not always want to spend time with us like this; that there would come a day when they would prefer the company of others.
He assured me that the weeds would still be there when we got back…but my kids would not always want to spend time with me.
That day came all too fast. My boys are now 18, 15, and 12. Their time at that mini-golf course is now spent with buddies and girlfriends, not mom and dad.
But I will always have that memory – that first time we went putt-putting together at the new golf course. How goofy the boys were, pretending to crawl in to the tunnel for the ball, or diving after a lost ball in the river. We hit the arcade afterwards and then enjoyed ice cream together. They gave me a memory to always treasure, and in exchange, I gave them my time and love. And the weeds? Well, I don’t recall much about them. Maybe they got pulled, maybe they didn’t. They did eventually die, however. So who cares?
The fact of the matter is, play is important. And when your child is begging you to drop what you are doing and play with him/her, it might help to remember why you should do just that.
Seven Reasons to Play with Your Child
- Playing with your child builds a good, strong relationship with your child. Playing with your child shows your child that you value him enough to put him first, above anything else that needs to get done. When you play with your child, you give of yourself and you give of your time. You share your love and joy. You forge a relationship to last a lifetime. This relationship will be the foundation for all-things-parenting in the years to come. This relationship will make your job as a parent, down the road, oh, so much easier.
- Playing with your child teaches social skills. You are your child’s first teacher. When you play with your child, you offer your insight, your problem-solving skills, your creativity and ingenious – things your child will not get from peers – peers of the same skill level as he. When your child plays with peers, friends and siblings, your child is practicing the skills he has learned, but your child is not necessarily developing new skills. These peers are not taking the time to walk your child through the necessary rules of social interaction – such as taking turns – but you can.
- Playing with your child develops her imagination and creativity. With years of wisdom and experience, Mom and Dad can inspire and lead more creative play than a sibling or friend may be able to do. You can introduce her to new games, such as Sardines, Kick the Can, Red Rover, etc. that her friends may not know. Or inspire Barbie Doll weddings, Play-Dough hamburgers and card-board box space shuttles. You have the opportunity to walk her through some of your best times as a child.
- Playing with your child sets the stage for teachable moments. We’ve all heard of “teachable moments”, and we look for them in our day-to-day lives. They may or may not present themselves. However, many conflicts or issues may come up during play, and you can use these moments to teach your child the best way to problem solve. You can show your child how another child might feel, when he skips your turn or cheats during a board game. Or you can talk with your preteen about a girl that is picking on him while shooting some hoops. A game of cards can be played while you talk to your son about the trouble he is having with his coach. These moments are hard to find in day-to-day activity, but easy to create when you spend time playing together.
- Playing with your child is a stress-reliever for both parents and child alike. We all have tough days, even kids. Laughing together releases those good-feeling endorphins within our brains, lowering our level of stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can actually “Increase personal satisfaction….it can make it easier to cope with difficult situations and helps you connect with other people.” Other people, such as your child.
- Playing with your child increases the level of physical activity for both parent and child. We live in such a sedentary society. Parents and children alike struggle to get in enough exercise during the day. Why not play ball, tag, or Frisbee together? You both will get the benefits of added exercise and you will build a bond that cannot be easily forgotten. Plus, sweating together continues to release those good-feeling endorphins!
- Playing with your child provides an opportunity to share your family’s core values and beliefs. What we believe, think or feel often is exhibited through creative works. This includes play. If you value education, your play will revolve around opportunities to learn and explore. If you value competition, you will naturally lean towards competitive play. And if you value family life, your play might include daily activities, such as cooking in a toy kitchen, cleaning with your child’s vacuum, or caring for baby dolls. Playing with your child is a good way to casually teach your values and beliefs.
And if these seven reasons aren’t enough to convince you to let the dishes wait, here is one more: playing is far more fun than scrubbing pots and pans!
The Child Development Institute states, “Playing with kids builds a bond that will last forever. It lets the child know he or she is loved and appreciated, it opens the door for sharing problems and concerns when the need arises and it helps the parent get to know and understand the uniqueness of each child.”
Playing with your child will build a bond that will be the basis for your parenting in later years. It is much easier to address sex, alcohol, drug use, or any other such tough topics during those teen years if you already have a relationship established. Likewise, it is easier to discipline if your child knows he is loved unconditionally. And it is easier to trust your daughter if you know her well and understand her way of thinking. This all comes through play and quality time – through building that relationship.
The Child Development Institute goes on to say, “Family Activities are great for the whole family. They help develop strong family bonds, which can last a lifetime. It can be said that a family who plays together stays together. [Family members] are more cooperative, supportive and have open communication. These qualities pay off in big dividends by increasing self-esteem, social skills and a sense of connectedness that helps kids and teens use good judgment when confronted with difficulties and temptations.”
So there you have it! Playing with your child does a wonder of good for social skills, brain development, decision-making and self-esteem. Playing with your child creates a special bond between you and your child and sets the stage for parenting in later years!
Making it Real…..
The next time your child asks you to play, make a resolution to drop what you are doing to honor that request. Likewise, the next time you find yourself with some free time on your hands, before spending it on something you enjoy, give your child ten, fifteen minutes of your time.
Spend some time logging how much time you actually play with your child in a given week. Pick two or three weeks and simply log every time you play with your son or daughter. If you’d like, chart the rest of your day as well. Do you spend time watching your favorite show in the evening, when you could be playing instead? How much quality time does your child actually receive from you, and where can you rearrange (or give up) things in your schedule to make more time for your child?
Why do you play with your child? Let us know in the comments!
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