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Monday, September 9, 2019

Why It is Healthy and Normal for Children to Play Alone

Socialization is an important aspect of childhood, but equally important is learning how to play alone. It can be very tempting to encourage our kids to play with their peers whenever the opportunity presents itself, but let's remember, too, that there are important lessons to be learned from solo play. Decision-making, creativity, imagination, and independence are all important traits that can be developed through time spent playing alone.

Many of us parents can vividly remember the days when our small toddlers needed and wanted every moment of our attention. "Play with me, Mommy" are words that many of us love to hear, but they can also wear us thin as we try to balance our children, chores, careers, and so much more. But those days went by all too quickly, and pretty soon those toddlers were confidently exploring their own spaces, making their own decisions on play, and becoming the strong and engaged individuals we'd hoped they would be.

Challenging our little kids to make their own fun is so important. Through solo play, especially play that does not include an element of technology, children can learn how to entertain themselves and find their own joy in activities. There is value in boredom because it forces children to think harder about the options available to them. Whether inside or outside, children can surprise us with their creativity and ingenuity when challenged to create their own entertainment.

Imagination can also be strengthened through ingenuity. So many of the activities children engage in today are created in a way that allows a child not to be required to think too hard. But thinking hard and stretching one's imagination is just like stretching any other muscle; it gets stronger. The ability to use one's imagination and really taking the opportunity to flex that muscle is something that can also serve them well in life and empower them to think creatively as they grow, explore, and learn.

Confidence is also gained by playing alone. Children can gain confidence in their ability to problem-solve and create when they don't have another person there to actively steer them in one direction or the other. Playing alone, children are responsible for making their own decisions, and while that may feel daunting to some children, once they practice their decision-making skills through play, they will be better equipped to make decisions within a group and outside of play.

New hobbies and interests can also be born out of playing alone. Without the influence of others and peer pressure to like or dislike specific activities, children may be more willing to try something new and find that they really enjoy it. There is so much to be said about "dancing when no one is watching", and lifting the social obligations felt by many, both children and adults, in a group setting. Playing alone, children can try new activities unfettered by public opinion.

So, as your little ones grow and social pressures push socialization and group play, don't forget the value in playing alone. Build up their independence and confidence through solo play and those skills will serve them very well in so many different ways.

Psychology Today on the Benefits of Alone Time

Playing Alone Promotes Creativity and Self-Esteem

School-age Play Options

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, September 2, 2019

9 Ways That Play Preps Children for Healthy Self-Expression

Raising my two kiddos, I have dealt with a wide spectrum of behaviors. I've handled the happiest of moments with a heart full of love and the terrible temper tantrums that make every parent want to pull their hair out. And through it all, I have come to find that as children learn how to express themselves in a healthy, productive way, the extreme emotions and extreme expressions become less. My kids are not toddlers anymore, but I remember it well and I would like to share with you all what I've learned about the importance of healthy self-expression and how to encourage it in children in the hopes that something will click with you and your toddler or preschooler.

Dynamic/Pretend Play

Dynamic play is a type of play in which children accept and apply roles and act out scenes and scenarios, either realistic or unrealistic. Playing out scenarios offers children the opportunity to explore different possibilities while feeling in control. That control may make the scenario feel safe and encourage self-expression. Through dynamic play children can explore different "what ifs" and the emotions that go along with them. For example, a group of children playing out a scenario involving a firefighter, all assume different roles and react how they feel their character would act. One child might explore the feeling of being brave as a firefighter, while another child playing a parent might explore the feeling of being worried, and another child playing a child in the scenario may explore the feeling of being scared. All are opportunities for the children to use their self-expression to convey emotion. Dynamic play is important because it encourages emotional exploration that can be applied to real life. It also helps to develop social skills, such as empathy and offers children the opportunity to apply their emotional knowledge to different situations.

Challenge Children through Trial and Error

It is tough for any parent to watch their child fail and become frustrated. We naturally want to help them, to make it easier, less frustrating. But, and I say this having made my fair share of parenting mistakes; failure is something we as parents and they as children need to learn to be more comfortable with. Failure is an incredible learning tool and the emotions that come along with failure can be strong. Practice and patience in learning to express disappointment, sadness, and anger are important. Next time your preschooler is learning something new, resist the urge to repeatedly step in or divert attention to a different activity. Allow the failure and subsequent growth to happen. Developing the ability to express disappointment and negative emotions can be especially helpful for children interested in playing competitive sports.

Encouraging the Arts

Art in all of its forms offers the opportunity for self-expression and emotional growth in children. Whether your child is interested in reading, painting, dance, or music, encourage their involvement in the arts as a way to explore and express their emotions. For example, dance offers children a safe way to explore movement and their body as a tool to express emotions. The may lead to greater awareness of one's body.

Promoting Self Expression in Children

Self Expression Through Art

Sesame Street on Self Expression

Preschool-Appropriate Play Equipment

Musical Play for Kids

Find more about the author: Kim Hart