Play is far more than entertaining—it’s engaging. True play requires a child to actively participate by using his mind and body. While setting your kid in front of the TV is easy, it’s no substitute for real play. To ramp up your child’s playtime and to make it more engaging and fun, check out these 10 tips.
1. Interact with your child. Be your child’s first playmate and create opportunities to play that require reciprocal interaction. Roll a ball back and forth with your baby, build a tower for your toddler to knock over, kick a ball around the backyard with your preschooler or play a game of tennis with your older child. Playing together is a natural opportunity to bond and connect with your child and an easy way to create family fun while promoting your kid’s development.
2. Be creative and use what you’ve got. There are many ways to play with a toy, but sometimes the packaging the toy comes in is more fun to play with than the toy itself. That’s OK! Go with it when your child makes a fort out of a box, magically transforms a doll’s hairbrush into a microphone, or turns a simple block into the caboose of a circus train. You don’t need fancy toys, simply use what you have: even try laying out the bubble wrap on the floor and let your child pop it with her feet.
3. Pick a play theme. Is your child into animals? Create a few days of farm-themed play. Gather up all the books, puzzles and toys you have that feature animals. Take a daytrip trip to the local zoo or farm and be sure to dress up as a farmer or your favorite animal before you head out. Serve up snacks and meals that go with the theme. Use animal shaped cookie cutters to create farm-themed sandwiches, and offer fresh fruits and veggies as healthy sides. Don’t forget an ice cold glass of milk!
4. Allow for free play. Let your child loose to play with whatever she wants, how she wants. Give her the opportunity to create fun by empowering her to direct her own playtime. Unstructured play gives children the chance to explore their own interests, test their imaginations, and practice their social and problem-solving skills. When kids are allowed to play freely, they discover what they really like to do. What is more fun that doing what you love?
5. Take part in child-led play. When your child wants to have a tea party, don’t assume you get to pour the tea. Follow your child’s lead and let her dictate the role you get to star in when entering her world of play. When children plan and engage in make believe play they develop self-control, an essential life-skill. Through their make believe play they work out feelings, solve problems and act out scenarios in a safe-environment. If you take over and direct the play, you run the risk of taking away these opportunities, as well as the fun.