Too often in today’s busy world, we forget to unplug and play. Even for adults, playing is a critical piece in maintaining a healthy balance in life. Playing as a parent not only connects you with your child, but also adds some fun to the work of rearing children. Here are some easy tips to help bolster your relationship with your child through play:
Schedule time for focused play
Make a commitment to find time to play with your child. Make it a priority and don’t double book or put it off for another day. Take 15 to 30 minutes to put away all distractions and focus on connecting with your child. Turn off your phone, put your laptop and IPad away, and get down on the floor. If you are able, schedule one-on-one times for each child.
Connect in your child’s world
Children live in the world of play. They communicate, process feelings, learn, and grow through play. Take this special time to allow your child to lead you into his world. Let your child make all the decisions, tell you what to do for a change, and choose all the activities. Follow her lead and enjoy the ride. Pay attention to the stories you child is telling and what he is communicating through play. You might be privy to things your child would have never told you with words.
Throw your rules and expectations out
Unless there is a safety concern, go along with whatever your child is doing. He wants to call the toy bear a dog? OK! She wants you to pretend to be the baby and they are the parent? Sure! He wants to use Legos to tell a story instead of build? No problem! Allow them to cheat at games and make up new rules. Don’t try to change the stories they are telling; listen and learn from what they are telling you. There will be plenty of other opportunities to teach valuable life lessons; use this time to let your child be in charge.
Encourage and instill confidence
Make comments on what your child is doing not how he is doing. Notice the hard work, focus, or energy she is putting in. Let him work to figure things out on his own instead of jumping in to solve a problem for him. Because you are in the safe space of play, children will naturally be more willing to take risks and try new things. Allow your child to do this with words of encouragement:
- “You’re working really hard.”
- “You’re not giving up.”
- “You figured that out!”
- “I know that’s something you can do.”
Over time, you will notice a stronger bond between you and your child. Not only will you reap the benefits of playing for yourself, but it’s also an investment in your relationship with your child.