There’s something so beautiful about watching your child deep in play. Whether they’re deeply focused on building a tower out of LEGO® DUPLO® bricks, running around like a superhero without a care in the world, or having a tea party and chatting away to their favourite teddy – playtime is the window into your child’s soul.
But parents need to know that play is about so much more for our little ones than just killing time. It’s one of the most powerful learning tools they possess – and it’s also one of the most powerful connection tools we can use as parents.
Whilst play comes naturally to most children, it’s where their little minds are free to think, be and feel anything they desire, for us adults, it doesn’t always come quite so naturally. It can often be difficult to connect with our children in these moments.
Often we will try to lead the play and direct our child to look at or do something we have suggested, or even do it for them. With our busy lives, we can rush through play as something to tick off the to-do list or something to appease our little one’s nagging without giving it much further thought.
However, Connected Parenting expert, Genevieve Muir, urges parents to sit back and let their child take the reins of play. Stay with them, stay engaged and ask questions along the way. This is where those powerful moments of connection are created.
If you’re not sure what to ask your child or how best to connect with them, Gen suggests asking them questions, such as:
1. ‘Wow, you are picking all the red bricks, is that your favourite colour?”
2. That tower is soooo tall! How did you get it to stay up without falling down?
3. How is your superhero going to get the bad guys? …. Mine is going to use his power to freeze them and put them in prison!!
As a rule, when it comes to asking questions and engaging with your child, Gen suggests the three C’s:
- Be Curious,
- Be a Commentator
- Allow for Creativity
By asking questions you are not only helping their minds process what they are doing, but you are also helping them to feel seen and heard; boosting their self-esteem and confidence.
As well as that, you are also helping them to become critical thinkers and doers. Their brains might not quite be ready to process all the information yet, but they are constantly forming connections and building an understanding that will grow into how they see and feel about themselves and the world around them.
“Play is a great way to connect with your kids,” says Gen. “We don’t need to spend huge amounts of time, but it’s all about quality over quantity.”
“So when playing we need to fully commit, no phone and no distractions (no folding washing or tidying up as you go) just ten minutes of fully engaged play will fill your child’s emotional cup.”
By taking the time to fully engage with your child during play, you are not only nurturing your bond, but you are also forming the basis of their learning and values as they grow. And of course, never losing sight of the fundamental principle that play should always be fun!
Children need to feel supported in order to feel confident to discover new concepts and ideas. This is vital as they carve out their place in both the home and the world at large. This will encourage them to think independently but also feel confident in sharing their ideas as they grow and start to form their own values and opinions.
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