Are You Up For A Playful Challenge?
Play. It’s a seemingly simple task but adults really struggle with letting go and just playing with their children. We often get all caught up in our own logic and forget the magic of just letting things play out, with little logic and interference from those with experience. Our small humans learn about their world through play. It’s pretty clear from about 0-7 but then a child’s play morphs into less actual playing and more games, competition, and exploration of boundaries. It is in play that a child learns all about their world, across all ages. They learn how to deal with feelings. They learn social rules like compromise, team work, empathy, etc. It is the single most important part of childhood that is being forgotten.
Play looks different through the years but we all play, even as adults. Toddlers are super interactive and love your attention and interaction during play. But sometimes they are playing beside us, watching and mimicking and that’s perfectly fine. Most of us recognize the play from the smallest humans but what happens when they get a little older? As play stops being mostly with toys, it becomes more experimentation with adult-like activities. For example, I know a lot of 7-13 year olds who like to cook, but their parents don’t allow the mess often or are too busy. Teens often want to spend more time with friends, sometimes talking, listening to music, playing games, etc. Adults also play, but not near as often as they should. Adults play looks a lot like hobbies, hiking camping, art, photography, working out...building an engine for a favored hot rod...
Here’s the challenge. Once a week, for 20-30 minutes I want you to play with your child, no matter the age, doing an activity(ies) of their choosing. If you have children under 7/8. Grab several toys, art stuff (including scotch tape), cards, etc. and lay them on a sheet on the floor. For the allotted time, the play happens on the floor with those toys. If your child is a little older, have a list of a few activities they enjoy and you don’t mind doing and have them choose one or 2. For teens, you can use the list, listen to their favorite music with them, play their favorite video game (or try too), etc. Here’s a quick list of rules for you, as the adult, to follow:
-Allow them to choose the activity(ies) to do
-Block out the 20-30 mins (turn off phone, have other kids with the other parent/grandparent
-Turn off your adult logic. Watch your child, talk to them, don’t correct them in this time (unless they are doing something dangerous). Your kid is pretty amazing.
-Don’t invite yourself into their play. Ask them what they want you to do…if they don’t know, don’t respond, or don’t want you to play, sit there and observe and narrate what you see (“I see you’re sticking that tape all the way across the page.” or “You know a lot of moves in this game.”)
-Do not correct them if they use a toy or item differently than its intended use OR if they do something differently than you would (seriously, that’s the adult logic). Allow them to learn, you will probably learn a thing or 2 as well.
It’s not as easy for most of us as it seems but try it. The first time or 2 might be a little awkward, that’s cool, roll with it. Watch the magic unfold and your relationship with your child improve with a simple 20-30 minutes a week.
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