|By Sara Reichstadt, Education Coordinator for Kinderberry Hill|
2020 has been full of surprises, that is for sure! Play is an opportunity for us all to escape, be joyful and creative. Research shows how important play is in promoting problem solving, self-regulation and decision making skills. These are the life skills we all need! Academic development actually comes more easily if these skills are firmly in place. So, even if our children may not be in school as regularly as before, we can rest assured knowing their brains are developing each time they engage in play.
Think about your child’s day. How much of it is devoted to play? For families working from home and challenged with balancing work and care, you might try creating fresh play opportunities for them. For example, gather a few wooden blocks and maybe some rocks or leaves. Place them on the floor and create a small “scene” with their favorite dinosaur (car, princess, puppy, etc.). Perch the toy right on top of the biggest rock and let your child discover this scene on their own. Think about something as simple as moving their dollhouse into the bottom of a closet and giving them a flashlight. Could you drape a sheet over the table and pile pillows and books beneath? Maybe glue two googly eyes on a piece of paper and leave a box of markers nearby. An open low cupboard with pots and pans can inspire exploration for little ones. Watch them get creative and enjoy! If possible, place this play where they can still see and check in with you. This will help extend their time. Don’t forget, children appreciate beauty! Consider adding soft fabrics, pillows or rugs to this space to make it more inviting.
We can also sneak play in during our regular duties of the day. Sharks have a million teeth! What would happen if you both turned into sharks as soon as the toothpaste hit the brush? Play ‘this little piggy’ when putting on socks and shoes. Invite your child to get on the “Express Train” when driving to school. (Ask them for their ticket and be sure to sound the train horn upon departure and arrival.) Write ‘I Love You’ on their back with your finger when tucking them into bed and kiss teddy bear goodnight too!
Finally, on those treasured days off, when we have a little more time . . . PLAY. Let your child lead. Follow their interests and be ready for their surprises. You may plan to take them to the park to play on the swings, only to realize they just want kick and toss the leaves. This is what unstructured, joyful play is all about. Be present. Make eye contact. Hold their hand and laugh together.
Sound too simple? Play really does have a plethora of benefits and all we need to do as adults is let loose. Be silly. Engage your inner child! Embrace the world of make believe! Laugh. Sing. Dance. Play! Try it—you won’t regret it!
Play is not only good for children, we could all benefit from a little more of it these days!