10 Ways to Develop Play Time with Your Child

Noah's ArkPlaytime with their parent is very important to children. Making time to sit down on the floor to play together is one of the best things you can do to support their development and your relationship with them. Some parents find it very difficult to value just sitting and playing. Sometimes a parent might even feel a bit awkward at first – after all, it’s probably been a long time since we ourselves did this –  but when you make yourself just do it, you will soon experience the immense enjoyment it can bring to both you and your child. Play is your child’s work so never underestimate its importance in their young lives.

Read on for this week’s parenting tips in our ’10 Ways to’ series which explores how parents can create and develop quality playtime with their child.

  1. Children are wonderful. Simply sit and watch them play and engage with materials. Enjoy how clever and curious they are.
  2. Smile with them when they discover something new and learn how to make things work for the first time. Admire how they can climb on the furniture, using their strength and determination. What wonderful qualities for your child to have.
  3. Talk with them and engage with them. Often we are so busy doing we don’t notice who our children are or actively listen to what they are saying.
  4. Why not challenge yourself to sit on the floor with your child for 20 minutes and simply see what comes of it. Try it over the next few days.
  5. Try not to sit down to play with an agenda in mind. Allow your child take the lead and to be in charge of the play time. Comment on what you see them actually do, e.g. “I can see you are putting the blue block into the teapot, and then pouring the tea out.”  Don’t say what you think, just what you see.
  6. Wait for your child to invite you into the game, and then do what they tell you to do. It is their game so respect this space and allow them be in control of life during play time. This is when they process what is happening in the big world every day for them. Watch and learn! And remember that you can allow yourself to have fun!
  7. Speak positively and try to let go of any naughties during this time. Later think about what went well and how you can support your child with what they find challenging. Think about how you can extend their play. Can you add real water to the tea set, bathe the doll, make paper aeroplanes and hang them up? What can you do and offer to your child to extend the play they enjoy. By doing this, you are supporting your child’s learning.
  8. Sometimes as parents we might have concerns about what we don’t like in our children, what we might see as their negative traits. But, within reason, these are perhaps not negative traits. Perhaps our own experiences have influenced us to think this way. Our role as parents is to support children to grow and achieve, helping them use their skills and talents to their advantage as they develop. Seeing their traits as positive and helping your child to see them as positive too is part of this. For example, what if your child is not cheeky, but strong willed? What can they achieve if they learn to use this skill well? They could be a future leader. Maybe your child is not shy or timid, but thoughtful and considerate of others. How can they best use this valuable trait?
  9. Making time for play with your child also helps you to identify what is missing from your child’s toy box that would support your child’s play and learning.
  10. Take on the challenge and you will never go back to just leaving children to play. Of course, at times it is important for children to play on their own or only with other children. They need their space from us too. But remember, making just 20 minutes to play with your child each day will keep you very closely connected to your child and enhance your current and future relationship.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on the topic of play on Monday 24 November from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook page. Join in and post your question. Or why not try these tips beforehand and let Geraldine know on Monday how it went?

Next you might like to read 10 Ways to Make Play Dates Positive or 10 Ways to Make the Most of the Playground.

This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly. Coming soon: 10 Ways to Nurture Your Role as a Stepparent and 10 Ways to Make Christmas Stress Free.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email support@onefamily.ie.