As a child, I remember spending hours outside playing imaginary games with my sister in the backyard. I didn’t worry about time or other things I had to do, I just played. There is something to be said about a child having the ability to play for hours on end, pretending to be fictitious characters and conquering different quests. Looking back, there are few times in an adult life where time can be spent so readily to just have fun.
There are always things to think of, places to be and things to do. Often as adults, we think of play as something that children do but will eventually grow out of. However, it is in the simplicity of play that a child’s development is supported and for this reason it should be nurtured and encouraged. Play is how a child learns. Through play, children develop socially, emotionally and cognitively. They learn about their environment, improve communication, increase their confidence and self-esteem, develop creativity and have the opportunity to identify and develop their interests. It is through play with peers, that children learn sharing, turn taking, problem solving and negotiating. It is through play with parents and caregivers, that closer bonds are encouraged, where children learn through role modelling and role play.
How can I encourage my child’s play? Here are some helpful tips:
- Keep toys easily accessible in the home and allow children to play with objects that aren’t typical toys too (cardboard boxes make great castles!).
- Organise regular play dates with your child’s friends from school or kindergarten.
- Spend time playing with your child – get on the floor with them and have fun! They will love spending this time with you! Follow their interest. Ask your child questions while playing e.g. ‘what are the dinosaurs doing?’
- Play games together as a family.
- Allow for mess. Allocate a special place in the house or backyard where they can engage in messy play. Providing your child with sensory-rich objects and toys can be lots of fun and promote creative play e.g. paint, play-doh and sand.
- Value your child’s creations. This will build their self-esteem and encourage them to continue learning through play.
If you would like more information about play, or would benefit from support regarding encouraging play for a child with a developmental disorder, please contact Kids At Max on 03 9702 4447.
Written by Kids At Max – Psychologist