Studies show that most children understand how to ‘pretend’ and use their imaginations at or around the age of two years old. Playtime builds the imagination which is a vital part of human development and supports growth and healthy development in children.
It’s important to be able to develop the use of the imagination because it helps children develop problem solving skills for the future.
Our imagination helps us to understand the use of symbols and therefore the skills of determining that one object can stand for another. It is essential in decoding which is necessary for abstract learning involving language, reading and math. The use of play in the development of the imagination helps us to explore situations and outcomes. In the act of play the use of everyday items is seen as symbols for something else. Often you might see a child use an object such as a pen to be used as a phone. or pan from the kitchen as a drum. Playing promotes the experimentation of various jobs and personalities. The mind hasn’t fully developed and by trying on different characters and behaviours the child can experiment by developing neural pathways in the brain which make us who we are. Play can also encourage the development of listening skills. Children often like to tryout different leadership roles or interactions with siblings and other people they come in contact with. It can help them make sense and interpret the social situations that happen in life, and the rules of social behaviour. For children facing behavioural difficulties with situations like perhaps a parental divorce, the use of play can provide a sense of control over their lives that they might not feel they have. This is why some children going through emotional difficulties may benefit from a trained professional play therapist or expressive art therapist. In extreme circumstances this recommendation to see a trained professional may be necessary.
Play With Your Child to Help Develop Social Skills
A social skill is defined as any skills facilitating interaction and communication with others. Playing with your child can help develop social skills. The parallel play among toddlers and children can help the child interpret and learn the rules and social behaviors of everyday life. It’s important to set good examples during these pleasurable times with your child for they are looking for your coaching skills. These are verbal or nonverbal ways of communication. If healthy play is involved, children have the opportunity to act out different social behaviors in a safe fun way without emotional punishment. Role playing is perfect for learning social skills in a variety of situations, such as work, dinner parties, school and other relationship interactions. When your child wants you to sit with them and play at having a tea party then it’s best to be a perfect role model and sit down and listen. When it’s your turn to facilitate, this is a perfect opportunity for you to help teach listening skills as well. Explore situations and outcomes with your child. The possibilities are endless. Don’t forget to laugh with your child. If during play you see behaviour you don’t like to see in your child mimic a better type of behavioral response for your child and have fun.
Physical Development through Play
The benefits of physical development through the act of play speaks for itself. We all want to have healthy active children so they can have the best quality of life. If you don’t have the space and time to play a sport with your child, that’s ok. Use your imagination and problem solving skills. These are the skills you want to see your child develop. You don’t need a large amount of time to play with your child. Take 20 minutes in the day with your child and skip rope with them. Play hop scotch or grab a ball and play toss. Set up a little relay race in your living room if space is limited. Play a simple hide and seek game around the house or turn on music and dance with your son or daughter. This will help build hand eye coordination, strength, balance and reduce stress. Yes, children can experience stress too.
Emotional Well being
Play has a lot to contribute to the emotional well being of your children as well. Play can offer a sense of control and self esteem. Kids can work through their emotions through play such as storytelling and physical play. This can be their chance to share the experience of aggressive behavior they may have experienced with a sibling or friend at another time. Children going through a lot of emotional challenges in their life should be encouraged and supported to play. Don’t fret if you see your child working with Plasticine in an aggressive way. Allow them to expressive themselves, as long as they are not being destructive to anything other than the modeling clay. Don’t worry play is a healthy resource tool to express emotions that are difficult to share.
When playing with your child remember your role in the process. Kids look to you for your coaching skills and modeling behavior. Freedom of self expression is important for building self esteem. Let your child take a leadership role in the play as well and join in when invited. If you child only wants you to watch, watch. Listen to your child and take turns practicing this listening skill. Everything in life has limits and it`s important set safety boundaries, preferably beforehand, when playing with your child. Let you child know the time limits of the play if you may have to be interrupted. It can be very confusing for a child to think they are playing with you and then continue on when you have stopped this engagement. Make this transition from play into reality as clear as possible. For example, let them know that when the phone rings, play time is finished, and you have returned to your role as father. Also let them know the limits that involve safety for the reason that no one gets hurt. This is crucial. It`s important to engage in play with your child from time to time and also encourage them time to play with others as well. Set up play dates if you can with other families, and remember to enjoy.