Spend a few minutes with little ones and you realize very quickly that they love to play. The next time you find yourself wondering if you can spend one more minute playing dolls or kitchen, remember all the MAJOR BENEFITS that come to kids from playing. It will make it a lot easier to go one more round. Plus, a few suggestions for keeping YOUR sanity while you play.
Here are some of the major benefits of toddler play.
1. For toddlers, play time is about learning BY doing. Kids make discoveries about the world around them through their playful explorations.
2. Playtime is your toddler’s chance to develop and stretch their imagination. They can be anything they want to be. A princess, a superhero, a fireman, anything. I remember when our son was 3, he was really into animals. He pretended to be a different animal every week. One week he was a dog, and then a cat, and when he ran out of animals that people have as pets, it changed to animals in the zoo. He would pretend when we were at home, in a store, at the dinner table, everywhere.
3. Experimenting through play helps children figure out what they are good at. This builds CONFIDENCE and SELF-ESTEEM. The research on this point is extensive. Kids who play have higher self-esteem and more confidence in themselves.
4. Play helps little ones learn to control their emotions like frustration, sadness, and anger.
5. Playing prepares children for socializing with others. It gives them opportunities to take turns, share and cooperate.
6. Kids who play have better language development and communication skills. Talking to themselves, to you, or their dolls and trucks builds these skills.
7. Playtime makes kids feel strong. “Mommy, look what I can do”!
8. Using puzzles, crayons and blocks develops fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. Simple play tasks like dressing dolls and snapping and buttoning develops these same important skills.
9. Active play develops good health and fitness at a young age. Ring around the rosy, hula hoop, tag and duck duck goose disguise exercise as fun.
10. Play builds problem solving skills. When kids build forts, draw pictures, and play chef, it causes them to have to figure out how to make things work.
11. Playing is fun. Young children don’t need to be enrolled in a million extracurricular activities. They need to be kids and play. The stimulation and learning that comes from play is the most important way for them to spend their time.
Is it hard for you to keep your sanity when your toddler wants you to play with them all day? Those are normal feelings. Here are some suggestions to help.
First. Toddlers love to be “copy cats”. Include them when you do your chores and jobs. Ask them if they want to PLAY WITH YOU. They will love to help. Sure, it might slow down the chores a little, but it teaches them while you work and builds memories they will never forget. Our kids love to help with the laundry. I have a stool by the washer and after we bring the clothes down, they stand on the stool and throw them into the water. When I cook, our daughter gets a wooden spoon and plastic bowl. We fill it with play food and cook together. Plus, this builds positive feelings about work in your children.
Second. Flashback. Be a kid. Think of the activity from your child’s perspective. Get down on the floor and play. You will see that as soon as you are willing to fully invest, it actually becomes a lot more fun. Our 2 year old loves to play pretend kitchen. As soon as I set the table and really start to imagine the activity from a child’s point of view, the experience becomes so much better. I also start to get inspired. I get more creative and can make the experience more fun for her.
We also have to let down our guard. Sometimes playing like a kid makes us feel “silly”. Back to when our son was going through his animal phases, he would want me to play along. I fought it for so long because I felt silly. One day we were at the grocery store and he was talking to me in dog talk. I remember feeling embarrassed by what others around me might think. Then it hit me, who is more important, my son, or the strangers in line with me? The answer was obvious. It didn’t mean I started barking loudly, but I started to play along. We had so much fun that day and as I left the store a wise grandmother tapped my shoulder. “He will remember that forever”, she said. I learned a good lesson that day. It is okay to play. That is part of my job as a mom.
Next. Play hard but not necessarily long. Giving your child all you have in short spurts is better for you and for your child, instead of pretending for hours that you are interested in the game. Our kids know when we are faking it. It is more important to be in the moment, and then, when you need to move on it will be okay. They will know you have been fully invested and so will you.
Next. You choose the activity. Most times your kids don’t care what they play, they just want to play. Pick something you like. I love to color. Love it. When the activity they want me to engage in is starting to weight on me, I suggest coloring. They are always excited and I am too.
Last. Parallel play. Playing with your child doesn’t always mean you have to be doing the same thing. They can color or look at books while you do something next to them that you need to do. Lots of times our children just want us to be around them so they are not alone.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH YOUR KIDS?
DOES PLAYING EVER MAKE YOU CRAZY?