Having time to play is an essential part of childhood and growing up. It is part of our roles and responsibilities as parents to provide our kids with an environment that encourages play time, creativity and independence.
However, it’s very easy to just leave the kids to it instead of using strategies that foster and promote play time. It’s important to encourage them to play independently, as our ever busier lives can leave children bored and disappointed, turning to the easy act of watching TV programmes or playing computer games that may not be the most appropriate for their social and mental development.
So, how can we encourage play time in children?
Allow Play Time Every Day
Just as we make sure that your children have enough time to sleep, do their homework or study, we can set aside some time to play each day. Whether they play with their cars or make a delicious meal for their dolls, disguise as indians or play a board game, it’s got great benefits if we can allow our children to just enjoy themselves and relax from their daily responsibilities and duties.
Experiences Mean Everything!
Children recreate experiences or activities they performed and enjoyed somewhere else when they use imaginative play. Thus, one of the simplest ways to encourage children to play and be creative is by providing them with diverse and meaningful experiences as regularly as possible. Make a family visit to the zoo or include your children next time you have to take the car to the car-wash service or enjoy a family picnic in a park nearby. You’ll soon discover how your children recreate these experiences in their daily games or use them as ingredients to spice up their play sessions.
Provide Some Props!
We can enrich your children’s pretend play opportunities by encouraging open-ended play. In other words, by offering them toys that have multiple uses and that help their imaginations expand powerfully. Stuffed animals, toy cars, pretend kitchenware, artistic materials, simple costumes (these can even just be mummy and daddy’s stylish old clothes from the 80’s), cardboard boxes or musical instruments. Invite children to play with them and allow them to use their imagination to create rich and highly detailed playing sessions.
Give Them Space to Play
Do your children have a safe, child-proof and comfortable space to play? Whether it’s outside or inside your home, it’s a good idea for children to have a place where they have everything they need within their reach: toys, props, books, art material… you name it! If possible, make sure that they don’t have access to screens and computers in their playing space as the idea is to encourage them to be as creative and open-minded as possible in their playing experience. Having their own play space encourages resourcefulness and independence in children as even though parents can be around and participate in their fun sessions, the idea is that they’re able to develop a complete playing session on their own while we’re mere spectators or limited participants.
Ok this one might get a bit of debate...I know how hard it is not to have a contradictory attitude towards children’s play time: on the one hand we love to see our children engaged in their play session and how they’ve turned their room or the living-room into a zoo, a city or a war zone but, on the other hand, we see the mess and complain about having all the toys around, cushions lying on the floor, blankets hanging from chairs and so on. As a result, sometimes we limit in some way or another their imagination.
That said, a good strategy that we can embrace in order to encourage play time in children is to accept mess as part of their creative process. We can then set aside time at the end where they’ll be required to clean that mess. I’m sure most will agree that cleaning up after yourself is a pretty handy skill for them to learn before they turn into teenagers anyway.
So here’s a few of the strategies that we can use to encourage children to play without your supervision. I invite you to try any or all of them in your family and share your findings. Which one has worked better in your case? Have you tried anything different?
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