Some of your fondest childhood memories may include time spent engaging in play. And those simple activities are also probably the ones that taught you some of the most valuable life lessons. That's why it is important for you to encourage your own children to play now, too, on a regular basis. By allowing your children to participate in a variety of games and other play activities, you will find that they benefit on so many levels. Here are some ways to encourage your child to get the most out of play:
- Keep things simple. Most children don't need a bunch of fancy gadgets to have fun. The simplest items offer the most room for imagination. Even a box or a spoon can become something exciting for your child with the right encouragement.
Give your child license to think outside the box. Don't let him or her feel obligated to play with toys or other objects only the way they are intended. Let your child come up with new uses for things. For instance, a doll can "help" bake cookies with you, a chair with a blanket over it can serve as a secret fort. The sky is the limit when it comes to your child's imagination.
Be enthusiastic about your child's ideas when it comes to play. When your child feels new approaches are well-received, he or she will feel safe to come up with more ideas and you will find his or her confidence will grow in the process.
Create a special box to keep costumes and other play treasures for your child. Inexpensive jewelry, old clothes, special accessories and other "treasures" can take on new life in the eyes of your child.
Let your child use play time as an opportunity to create something new. Keep a crafts box handy with things like paper, felt, glue, crayons, play dough and other items he or she can use to make cards, holiday decorations or other props you can proudly display around your house.
Help your child play act out favorite stories, movies or other scenarios. Don't feel obligated to stick to the story line. Try adapting new approaches or "What If" scenarios to see what might happen in different circumstances. You can also add puppets or other props to take things to another level.
Allow your child to be a good winner as well as a good loser. Take the opportunity to talk with your child about how it feels to be on both sides and encourage him or her to be a good sport in all circumstances.
Provide your child with time to play alone. Playing with puzzles, blocks and other games can give your child a chance to master new skills and at the same time, can also foster independence.
Teach your child how to play with others. This means being able to wait his or her turn, and being able to accept input from others. These are skills that it can take time to master.
Expand playtime beyond your home and your yard. Once you get into the swing of things, even a trip to the grocery store or a walk down the street can open up opportunities to search for objects that start with a letter, or play fun counting games. In the process of playing together, both you and your child with enjoy, learn and grow.