Why Play Is So Important in Parent-Child Interactions

Imagine coming home after a long day of exhausted work. All you want to do is close your eyes and relax, but your child comes running and asks you to play. Would you say yes or no?

Playing with your young one can be exhausting. They’re like a ball of energy that never runs out. However, you’ll think twice about saying no if you find that the long-term benefits of playing with your child can improve their mental, physical, social and emotional well-being. Learn more about the various merits of parent-child interactions through a fun play.

Benefits of Playing with Your Child

If you ask yourself what special memories you remember from your childhood, you most probably would answer those times you were playing with friends or family. Play brings a sense of enjoyment, making it a big part of a child’s developing years and adult memories. It benefits your young one in many ways. 

1. Hones Problem-Solving Abilities

Those fun bonding times with your young one offer plenty of opportunities to fine-tune their problem-solving chops. For example, a simple activity that involves building structures with blocks requires them to plan, experiment and try every possible solution to assemble a stable framework. They put on their critical and creative thinking hats and combine their imagination and cognitive skills to come up with an effective solution. Children are sponges for knowledge. Spending those few hours playing with them isn’t useless, as it can impart valuable lessons.

2. Refines Communication Skills

A study revealed the quality of parent-child communication had a favorable effect on children’s academic performance, which was influenced by their positive self-conception or how they viewed themselves. 

Play can teach your kid how to express themselves clearly and convey their feelings in a manner that doesn’t hurt others. The ability to speak well can facilitate a meaningful exchange of information, an important skill they can use when they turn adults.

3. Improves Social Skills

One of the benefits of playing with your child is increasing their social IQ. Play is a group activity where your kid picks up many skills, such as learning to work, share and cooperate in teams. Role-playing games encourage them to make friends, gain a greater awareness of others’ feelings and explore things outside their personal bubble.  

Additionally, children develop their confidence and self-esteem from the freedom to do what they want. As a parent, you can contribute to leveling up your child’s interaction skills and social orbit through play.

4. Develops Cognitive Ability

If children learn social skills with active outdoor games, board games can upgrade their cognitive proficiency and other knowledge domains. 

For example, playing chess involves strategic planning, patience and reflection to guarantee a win. To stay in the game, children must adhere to the rules, strategize to counter their opponent’s moves, predict possible outcomes and make decisions based on the current circumstances. They learn to consider the pros and cons and find ways to turn the game in their favor. Most schools don’t provide such opportunities for multi-dimensional learning. Above all, board games encourage the spirit of sportsmanship and healthy competition.

5. Boosts Emotional Regulation Skills

Spending time with your child through fun activities can also teach them to regulate their emotional knob, which doesn’t mature until they become adults. By default, children are ruled by their emotions and act impulsively on them. For instance, they laugh hysterically to show they’re happy and cry to hint they’re sad or angry. 

By age five, your child learns to express their feelings via words or actions. They’ll say if they’re sad and learn to wait patiently for their turn. Play creates an opportunity for young ones to check their emotional scale and adopt other ways to express their sentiments. Enjoyable games move them out of worry and increase their happiness.

Benefits of Child Interactions for Parents

What’s the importance of playing with your child? Family interactions can boost your well-being. Here are three ways how.

Strengthens Emotional Bonding

Play is the only activity where parents and children can engage as equals, respecting each other’s boundaries. This mutual respect becomes the foundation for a quality parent-child relationship in the future — one built on understanding, trust and cooperation. You create a robust, loving bond when you spend quality time with your kid. 

Reduces Stress Levels

Parents who play with their children are healthier. One study revealed playtime can deflate stress levels, boost mental stamina, increase well-being and strengthen the immune system. It’s as beneficial to adults as it is to children. An expert compared the mirthful laughter shared during recreations between parents and kids to internal jogging since it can lower blood pressure and stress and boost the immune system like moderate exercise. 

If you need to relieve stress, challenging your kid to a board game or an outdoor activity may be effective.

Model Positive Behavior

Children learn through imitation. What better way to teach them positive qualities than through engaging play? Structured games are a chance for parents to model respect, patience, empathy and other positive attributes they want their children to absorb as they grow. Education through play can make them better people.

Common Barriers to Parent-Child Play

While the benefits of playing with your child are undeniable, busy parents may find it challenging to add bonding time to their schedule. Here are common barriers preventing them from doing so.

Time Constraints

Many parents find it challenging to balance work with personal life due to the increased demands from multiple obligations. Setting aside time to play with kids often moves to the bottom priority. Managing time and drawing a clear line between responsibilities can help solve this hurdle.

Technology Distractions

Another barrier to raising and motivating children to spend time outdoors is their fixation on screens. Many are digitally dazed, compromising their sleep to spend on social media. Be strict about limiting screen hours and promote active play by converting weekends into outdoor gatherings. Discussing safe technology practices with children could be beneficial in preventing the negative effects of misusing social media or the Internet. 

Lack of Access to Green Spaces

Natural areas have multiple health benefits. One study found living in green spaces, like parks, gardens and forests, could improve childhood development by reducing exposure to air pollution. Being near them offers more opportunities for children to engage in outdoor activities that give them joy. Therefore, it is recommended that children be brought to parks more frequently.

Tips for Effective Parent-Child Play Interactions

Parents who rarely spend time with their kids can make the most out of every interaction by giving their undivided attention. Here are some tips to make every moment count.

Use the Observe, Wait and Listen (Owl) Strategy

By practicing the OWL strategy, you can become your kid’s ideal conversation partner. While many kids’ learning curve is steep, some take a while to hone their language ability. If they can’t promptly respond to a question, be patient, observe what they say or do, wait for feedback and listen attentively. It takes 5-10 seconds for healthy kids to process language and 10 seconds for those with language delays. 

Show Genuine Interest

When they play, show you’re genuinely curious about what they do through body language, affirmations, tone of voice and facial expressions.

Let Them Take Control

Playtime is an opportunity for your child to shine and take the reins. By giving them control, you’ll learn what they find interesting, how they play, how fast they learn and their skill level. 

Expand Their Vocabulary

Kids have a limited word bank and often use the ones they hear from you all the time. Convert play interactions into language education by adding an extra word to their vocabulary, such as an adjective to describe something or a synonym to a term they always say.

Allow Them To Engage in Conversations

Two-way communication can boost family engagement and make conversations interactive, respectful and feedback-oriented. It’s the best way to maintain a connection with your child.

Add Playing With Your Child Into Your Routine

The importance of playing with your child can’t be emphasized enough. Play teaches them several valuable attributes and improves their skills in many facets. Allow your young one to take the lead and make each bonding moment a positive experience they can remember.

Beth Rush
Author: Beth Rush

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