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Unleash the Fun: Tips on How to Engage in Playtime with Your Child

Updated: 3 days ago


From social/emotional development to supporting creativity and much more research shows us the importance of play in early childhood development and beyond. For some, playing with a child comes naturally but for others play can seem like a daunting task. Maybe you don't like being goofy, maybe you find children's games kind of boring, or maybe you are just plain exhausted from working, running a household, an illness etc. Whatever the reason may be we are here to give some tips to help you engage in playtime with your child.








  1. Limit distractions:

Turn the TV off and if you are able to, leave your phone in an entirely different room or at least leave it in your pocket so you are not tempted to look at it. You don't have to leave it alone for hours at a time but try to build up time that you don't spend looking at it. An article published by University of Delaware Professor Roberta Golinkoff states

"The presence of a cell phone or tablet may lead the parent to interact less with the child, and it may communicate to the child that the parent is less available for help or support. By contrast, a playful activity without the competing presence of a digital screen may promote the rich question-asking that advances children’s language development and learning in general"(1)





2. Start small: You may feel like you are slacking on play time and want to jump into hours and hours of play right away - but just like any goal, trying to do too much at once may make you less likely to achieve your goal of engaging in more play. So aim for pushing yourself just beyond your current amount of play and build from there. If you tend to do (not distracted) play with your child for ten minutes, aim for fifteen!






3. Let your child lead: if they are already playing with something, go to them and see if they invite you to play or ask if you can play with them - if they do/say yes, ask them what they are playing and how they want you to join. For example if they are building with blocks they may say they would like you to play when in reality they just want you to sit with them while they build. When they are done encourage them to describe to you what they created.



Child and man playing with wooden blocks



4. Be flexible: if your child wants to jump from playing with one thing to another and another, roll with it - chances are they are excited to show you everything or haven't found something that has peaked their interest.



5. Get on their level if possible: not only does getting to their level help you engage in play with your child (how can you build with blocks if you are sitting on the couch and you are on the floor) but it " shows you want to be close and helps your child feel secure. It also helps with eye contact, especially for younger children." (2)



6. Try not to be self conscious: for some people this one may sound strange but others truly do feel self conscious when playing with their child - you may worry if you are "doing it right" or if you look silly. Try to let that go and allow yourself to be goofy, to make silly faces, to run after them like a dinosaur; they will absolutely love it. If other parents are watching they know exactly what is going on - you are enjoying play time and building memories and your relationship with your child.





7. Rotate Toys: This one is related to our above suggestion in that when you rotate toys in and out children's interest tends to be held longer. Bonus that means that those toys that make sound nonstop also get rotated out!



Boy and man high fiving



8. Offer a location change: when the weather is right, head to a playground or take an imaginative discovery walk. If the weather is not good, go to an indoor play space (many libraries offer these for free!) Change in location can keep both parents and children more engaged! Bonus if it is somewhere they haven't been before (or it's been a while). If you are looking to join a parent group, or class or for a play space in your area check out our find a playgroup page!



Two adults with a child on a slide



9. Recall: Towards the end of the day, or before your child goes to sleep, talk to them about your play time that day. It can be as simple as "I really liked playing legos with you today" or "I had so much fun exploring a new playground with you" it will leave both of you with some nice "warm and fuzzy" feelings!



Most of all just have fun and enjoy this wonderful time with your child, remember they are only young for so long and any and all play time they have with you is important and special!



**If you are more interested in specific "special playtime" this article by the CDC does a good job discussing its' meaning, recommended toys, and its benefits.






Any questions or comments? Let us know!



References:

(1) Henderson, J. (2022, April 7). DO CELL PHONES DISTRACT US FROM INTERACTING WITH OUR KIDS? Retrieved from University of Delaware: https://www.cehd.udel.edu/do-cell-phones-distract-us-from-interacting-with-our-kids/


 


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