Why do parents have to play with their children?

In this post, I will share with you my findings and experiences about playing with children. I intertwine my thoughts with an excerpt from the book The Incredible Years, written by Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton. The book is for parents of children aged 2 to 8 years. However, many things we can also apply to older children.

Let’s lay the groundwork

The first step in a good upbringing is playing with your baby.

As a mom of three, I admit, I do not take the time to play with them too often. I am always in the middle of different tasks. I have to wash the dishes; then it is necessary to cook the lunch. Or I have a lot of laundry in the bathroom, which I need to launder right away. When the laundry is clean, I have to hang it or put it in the dryer. In the meantime, I clean the apartment, vacuum, and fold the laundry. Daddy also has a lot of work to do. What are the kids doing? Hmmm.

They play with each other for a little while. Then the game is getting hot, and the children start fighting and screaming and crying. Then I say to myself, “Mom, it is time to stop. Look at what the kids are doing. It might be a good idea to go to play with them. They had time for themselves. Now they are fighting. It has to stop. You have to end this. It is time to play with them.” Well, I wrote that a little too poetically. I would most often intervene and send each one to its corner to cool down.

When we in our daily chores, we might think too often: “Why do I have to play with my kid? As it is good for him to play by himself so that I can have a little peace.” Yes, it is good they play alone. But a game with parents is also needed. “But how do I play with my baby? Where is the time when I was a kid? I do not know how to play.

Sometimes we have to let go of the flow of events. What is the child’s current interest? How can I get involved?

My children are enjoying the most when they are wrestling around the bed with their dad. We all adore it when we are running in the garden or playing some game with the ball. The older two like to play cards One while the youngest is playing with them in his way.

Why there are benefits when we play with children?

The game is beneficial for children as it gives them opportunities to learn:
  • who they are,
  • what they can do and
  • how to get involved in the world around them.

The tendency for creative play is gradually eroding if the adults do not encourage such play. That is why parents need to play with their children. Of course, there are other causes as well, as the game helps to establish a warm relationship and strong bonds between family members.

Through the game you can:

  • help children solve the problems,
  • test ideas,
  • explore the imagination,
  • encourage the development of vocabulary,
  • learn how to share,
  • take into account the emotions of others.

Kids get more creative when parents interact with them in fantasy games.

How to play?

In the book The Incredible Years, Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton gives us the following 13 recommendations. I will try to describe them in my best way:

1. The child should lead how to play the game

Considering that we managed to take the time to play with the child, we should not impose him on our rules on how to make this move, where to put that toy. Let him give his directions, his wishes. We should follow his actions and do what the child wants. Of course, in the manner that the game is safe. We do not teach him new things.

2. We should adjust the rhythm of the play to the child

Kids love to play a particular game all over and over again. A toddler is continually filling and emptying a box. By making endless moves, the child learns specific skills. Until he is comfortable, he does not want to move forward. In this case, parents need to be patient and wait for something new to come. If we “force” him into a new game, he will withdraw. Because what we are trying to present to him is not prepared yet. He will be embarrassed if he would not be able to do it in a way you want him to. When he is ready, and when he has mastered a particular activity, he will move on to a new game.

3. Pay attention to the signs given by the child

We should choose something that a child likes to do. Do not force him into games. He is not ready yet. If children are not interested in what you are offering them at the moment, let them go. If we want to teach them how to play cards, but they are not ready, let them go. Otherwise, they will feel frustration. They will say when they are prepared for new knowledge.

Do not expect too much; give them time.

4. Avoid measuring power

Let us not get involved in who won or what are the rules of the game. Do not argue which picture is more beautiful. The primary importance of toddler play is to stimulate the child’s feelings of ability, as well as independence. This gives him opportunities for legitimate control and power. There is no harm in letting a child win. Because if we push too hard to be the winner of your favorite board game, the child will feel powerless and he will withdraw. Before the age of seven or even eight, children do not fully understand the rules. Around that time, they begin to show signs of first collaborative contacts.

Dr. Webster-Stratton recommends that we also adopt the rules of the child. We can give an example of how we can accept things. Children are also much more likely to follow our rules in other circumstances when they observe our behavior.

Do not compete with the baby.

5. We praise and encourage children’s ideas and creativity – DO NOT criticize

Children become too cautious when exploring their ideas or exploring with their toys if we are constantly reminding them, “No, this is not going there.” “It’s not done that way.” In doing that, they develop a sense of powerlessness. Because the parents do not tell them what appropriate behavior is. We only pay attention to what they have done wrong.

When we play with children, we do not correct, judge, or oppose them. Because this time is only essential to create and test. A final product is not the case.

Let us try to think of ways to compliment a child’s ideas, thinking, and behavior. That way, we can strengthen a whole range of skills, such as:

  • attention,
  • perseverance,
  • working hard to solve problems,
  • ingenuity,
  • expressing emotions,
  • cooperation,
  • motivation and
  • Self-Confidence.

6. With the game of pretending (imagination game), we encourage emotional understanding

My youngest son puts me in an armchair. I have to put my feet on the table, and I transform into a road with bridges, hills, barriers. Different imaginary vehicles are on the way. The game is at its height.

In fantasy games, we encourage the use of dolls, cottages, role-playing clothes, imaginary phones, money, imaginative creatures.

Why are such games important?

Such games:

  • encourage creative thinking,
  • build children’s imaginative worlds,
  • encourage storytelling,
  • assist in learning to regulate emotions,
  • help to share their feelings with others,
  • develop a range of mental, emotional and social skills,
  • help children think symbolically and make it easier to understand what is real and what is not,
  • They help children experience the feelings of someone else, which helps them understand and be sensitive to others.

7. Let us be an attentive and grateful audience

Play is one of the few activities that can be controlled by children without having to pay attention to many rules and restrictions as long as they behave appropriately. Relax and watch what the kids are creating. We commend their efforts with enthusiasm.

8. Use descriptive commenting, do not ask

“What is in the picture?” “What are they doing at the construction site?” “Which animal is that?” “What are you doing?”

We ask questions to encourage children to learn. But doing this too often has the opposite effect. Asking questions is a kind of command. Especially then, when parents know the answer. Try not to query children with such issues, to stand out.

Prefer to show interest in the game by commenting on it. Describe what the children are doing. Like a sports journalist who enjoys commenting on a match. As at the time when he is explaining, step by step, how the game evolves.

If we are already asking questions, we must limit them and close the learning loop. For example, “Which animal is this?” The baby answeres the elephant. Then we praise him, “Wow; you really know your animals. This elephant is gray and has a trumpet.” With that, he gets further information.

9. Develop school readiness

We use instructional training for this technique. In addition to commenting on what is happening in the game, we also comment on the properties of objects. Such as shapes, colors, numbers, sizes (long, short, high, smaller than) and positions (top, bottom, next, for, at).

We can help develop the child’s ability to maintain attention or to persist for a long time in a particular activity. Encourage the child to solve the problem by describing their ability to think carefully, to listen collectively, to work independently, to persist in a difficult task, and to follow instructions.

10. With emotional training, we develop emotional literacy

Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton advises that parents should be coaches of social skills. By inviting children to the desired behavior. We perform this “training” by describing and praising the child’s friendly behavior.

During play, we recognize the children’s emotions and name them. We describe when they appear:

  • calm,
  • happy,
  • curious,
  • relaxed,
  • excited,
  • confident,
  • proud,
  • angry,
  • when something is wrong with them,
  • and they are tense.

This description helps children to connect their emotional states with words, which also enriches their vocabulary.

11. We practice quality peer games with the kids

Social skills training is ideal when our toddler is playing with relatives or friends.

We can describe their social behavior when they:

  • share toys,
  • wait in line,
  • they say thank you,
  • take turns playing,
  • help another,
  • they ask for permission,
  • before they pick up another’s toy,
  • or make friendly suggestions.

The approach strengthens the friendship between children. We can say, “This is very friendly. You are sharing your cars and waiting for your turn.”

12. Encourage your child to solve problems independently

When a child is confronted with an obstacle, parents are too eager to come over and solve it instead. STOP! We tame our desire to offer too much help; encourage the child to solve the problems.

Stop and see if he really can not do it himself and help him first with guidance. Many times the child does not want help. Maybe he is just protesting out loud; when he is not able to straighten the blanket. When we wait for a while (just watch), he stops, thinks, and continues. If we straighten a sheet instead, we reduce the child’s sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. We nurture adult addiction. Our goal, however, is to raise an independent person.

We encourage the ability to think, solve problems, and play independently. Instead of saying we are going to put together a puzzle for them, let us suggest putting it together. Let the child find the pieces and try to figure out what goes along. We offer them just the right amount of support, praise, and encouragement. The child has to feel successful.

Children only want our attention.

13. Pay attention to the game

Even when toddlers play quietly, we pay them some attention. Let us show them that we appreciate their peaceful play. Otherwise, they may feel overlooked. What they learn in this case is that we see them only when they are loud. Or even intentionally doing something to get their parents’ attention.

If they happen to attract attention to inappropriate behavior, we have taught them that they must behave in such a way that we notice them. The child will strive for parental attention, be it positive (praise) or negative (punishment and criticism). Therefore, we must give children positive attention for appropriate behavior so that they will not strive for negative attention through inappropriate behavior.

Something more before we end the post

Of course, not everything is ideal in real life. There are times when the child is misbehaving. He whines, screams and throws toys or is otherwise irritable. If we can ignore such behavior, turn away, and start playing with another toy. When the baby begins behaving appropriately, we can look back. In the case of irritating behavior, the game must be interrupted and explained to the child: “When you are throwing cars and breaking them, we must finish the game.”

We should tell the children how much time we will play with them before the start of the joint game. They need to be briefed to continue the game on their own. As time expires, we tell them that now is the time to stop playing with them. Let us emphasize that we enjoyed this time playing with them.

It is essential to appreciate the game and take the time to play with our children. The child learns a great deal during this time. Such as how to handle his emotions, trying out new ideas, making friends, and many other skills.

Let us laugh and have fun with them!


Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton: The Incredible Years written by Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton

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