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Friday, February 14, 2020

8 Simple Resolutions for a Parent to Support Play

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8 Simple Resolutions for a Parent to Support Play

We all know how important it is to spend time with our kids, but did you know that parent-child play is a vital part of a child's development? Research shows that children who have parents who play with them have a better vocabulary, do better in school, and have better self-esteem. Of course, independent play is also important: Unstructured play allows children to gain independence, flex their imagination, and work on their problem-solving skills. It also helps kids manage their stress and build their resilience and grit. Whether they're playing with you or on their own, it's important that parents support and encourage playtime. Here are eight resolutions you can make to help your kids get all of the benefits that play provides.


Encourage Children to Play Independently

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Free play has been decreasing since the 1950s, largely due to fears about leaving children unsupervised. But independent play doesn't have to be totally on their own: Keep an eye on them, but let them be in charge and try to solve their own problems. Stand back, avoid making suggestions about how they should play, and praise what they're doing, whether it's making a tall tower out of blocks or trying out the tallest slide at the playground.


Allow Children to Take Risks During Playtime

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Scientists once deprived young rats of risky play during a sensitive time in their development. The result was adult rates that were scared of new environments and displayed inappropriate aggression. Children of all species will sometimes want to try types of play that involve great heights, high speeds, dangerous tools, elements like fire or water, roughhousing, or hiding. All of these things can be scary for parents, but setting up a controlled environment where children can experience risk while playing is important to their development.


Spend More Time Outside With Children

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Playing outside isn't just good for your kids: It's good for you, too. Try to work in some family play time by tweaking your existing schedule. For example, sometimes, when I'm out running errands with the girls, we'll stop at the playground to blow off some steam before we head to the next stop on our to-do list. Try to get out in your own yard or the neighborhood park at least a few days a week.


Advocate for Recess at School

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Only eight states require that students be given a daily recess period, and school districts across the country have been cutting recess in recent years to carve out more instructional time. Not giving children the chance to run around, be outside, socialize with their friends, and play is detrimental to their development. What's a parent to do if their children's school isn't offering recess? Advocate for it. The National PTA advocates for recess and has resources available. Speak with the principal, and then go to your school's PTA to form a plan. You might need to escalate your request to the school board or involve the media.


Play More Yourself

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Instead of micromanaging the kids' play when you go outside with them, engage in your own favorite activities! Did you love riding your bike as a kid? Get it out of the garage and go for a ride around the neighborhood. Enjoy swinging? Show the kids how your proper pumping technique really lets you fly! The kids will see an adult happily engaged in play, and that affirms that their own play is important and valuable. It's also great for you!


Make Sure the Family Schedule Allows for Unstructured Play

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We all have busy schedules, and that goes for both you and your kids. That means that finding the time for free play to just spontaneously happen can be difficult. That's why it's important to make sure there's enough room in your schedule for play. Scale back on your after-work and after-school activities; limit each kid to one sport or after-school activity per season. After all, if each kid has organized activities from the time school lets out until dinnertime, when are they supposed to play?


Provide the Necessary Materials for Playtime

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So many children's toys are meant to only be played with in one particular way. Try to shift your toy-buying to things that allow for open-ended, creative play. A box of dress-up clothes, puppets, small versions of adult tools (a small broom, a small rake, etc.), buckets, balls, and the like will give your kids the necessary physical objects for highly creative play.


Invite Other Children Over

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Children love playing with other children, so make sure they have other kids to play with! A simple way to make this happen is to hang out with your kids on the school playground after classes let out. You can also meet other kids to play with at local parks. As kids grow older, they'll naturally want to start hanging out more with their favorite friends, so make a point to invite them over for play dates. It doesn't have to be anything fancy: Just offer a few snacks and let the kids handle the rest, with minimal adult interference.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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