The Importance of Play – Social Development In Children
After a long day at work, you come home and make dinner, bathe the kids and then have some time to spend with them before bed. Some parents will watch their children play while others will join in their activity. Play is important for social development in children, it is also important for parents to join in their play. When you join in activities with your child you demonstrate to them that they are important to you, you enjoy spending time with them and you learn about your child. Interacting with your child will also foster positive self-esteem which in turn can also set the foundation for good behaviour. According to child development theories by Dr. William Sears, by focusing your complete attention on your child during play, your child will feel important, if you are playing with your child but thinking about work, your child will sense that and the interaction will loose value. Many parents say “ I have too many things to do”, take a moment and leave the chores; they will still be there tomorrow. The time with your child will be gone before you know it. Playing with your child will allow you to get to know your child better, you will become familiar with their temperament; you will bond with your child and find out where they are at developmentally.
When you join in activities with your child you demonstrate to them that they are important to you, you enjoy spending time with them and you learn about your child.
So, how do you play with your child, what do you do, what do you play, and how do you stay entertained during play? These are all common and valid questions that we will explore and answer. The first and most important thing when interacting with your child is to follow their lead, you want to engage in an activity that they want to do; this way their attention will be paramount and will continue as long as the child is interested. Play allows children to explore objects, create fantasy, and learn about cause and effect and about their world. Additionally, play will teach children about roles, rules, sharing, how to interact with others and how to express themselves.
Play also enhances development in the follow areas:
- Encourages language Development
- Fosters social development in children
- Enhance self-esteem
- Reduce physical aggression
- Improves social skills
- Enhance attention and problem solving skills
- Enhance negotiation skills
- Enhance emotional development
How to encourage play:
- Spend time observing your child play and learn about their style. Then you will be able to follow their lead during play
- Provide a play space with children’s toys. This will allow the child to play and parents not to worry about them getting into things they are not supposed to. This will allow the play to continue for longer periods and enforce positive interactions.
- Play with your child on a regular basis with undivided attention. This will foster your bond as well as the child’s self esteem.
- Extend the play with the child by adding in props, talking about what you are doing and/or acting out what you are playing.
- Encourage playfulness, be a kid when you play. This is when you need to find your kid-self again. You will realize after how much fun you had.
- Provide different play experiences, play with different toys, objects etc. This will allow the play to be different each time and enjoyable for both you and your child.
Here are a few different activities to do with your child:
- Play with puppets
- Read stories
- Make up stories and act them out
- Dress up play
- Sand/Water play
- Music and movement (dancing)
- Cars, trucks
- Animals, dinosaur figures
- Build with blocks, Lego
Think of playing with your child as investing time raising the most important person in the world. You will notice how relaxing play can be and that you can forget about your stresses in life when fully engaged.
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