In need of a therapeutic session with your kid? Try playing. That’s right; playtime can prove therapeutic for kids and adults alike. Whether you’ve had an argument with your child that you can’t seem to get over or you just need to add a little fun and laughter to your day, playtime can have a huge impact.
In addition to the physical play and imagination time kids can get at school with their peers, playtime with adults is essential. Parent-child play can build healthy relationships, improve health, and develop an assortment of important skills. It’s not just your child that benefits from playtime, either. You can also enjoy a range of benefits from playing with your child. Here’s how.
Playtime Builds Relationships
Children reap various benefits from unstructured playtime with other kiddos, including siblings and peers, and playtime by themselves is also important. At the same time, parent-child play (or playtime with other loving adults) comes with an array of special benefits. Playing together can build strong relationships between children and the adults in their lives.
Some key ways playtime can strengthen your relationship with your child include:
- Adding joy: Regular playtime injects a sense of joy and resilience into relationships.
- Building trust: Children can learn to feel safe and trust others through play.
- Creating healing: Playing together can also heal disagreements, hurt, and resentments between parent and child.
When you bring play and humor into everyday interactions with your child, you can connect on a deeper level and improve the quality of the relationship. Play — and the laughter that goes with it — can lead to healthy parent-child relationships by nurturing a positive bond, resolving conflict, and bringing you and your child closer together overall.
Playtime Boosts Health
Playtime is good for your child’s health, and it’s good for your health, too. When it comes to kids, research has demonstrated that play is essential to development in childhood as it assists in memory, cognition, social skills, and even mental health. So, it’s important for you to play with your child for their sake — but you’ll receive health benefits as well.
When moms, dads, and other loving adults engage in affectionate play with their kids, the hormone oxytocin is released. This hormone plays a role in bonding between parents and infants, but you’ll get the boost even when you play with older children. Play also delivers health benefits for adults in general, including:
- Boosting creativity.
- Improving brain function.
- Increasing your energy.
- Relieving stress.
- Stimulating your mind.
- Strengthening relationships.
The next time your child is eager to enjoy some playtime together when you feel like you’re too exhausted, try re-framing how you approach the situation. The play session can be just as therapeutic for you in the end as it is for your kid.
Playtime Develops Skills
You’ve likely heard it before: Kids have brains like sponges. Their minds soak up everything they encounter, and interactions with parents and other adults and children shape the way a child learns to behave in social settings. Kids can develop self-control and social skills through play, learning what is and isn’t acceptable as they take cues from adults.
Active, physical play and pretend are both important. When parents engage in playtime with their kids, it helps kids develop skills such as:
- Cognitive flexibility.
- Emotion regulation.
- Gross motor skills.
- Leadership skills.
- Working memory.
Kids absolutely get these benefits by playing with siblings and peers. However, parents and adults can give their child more varied and mature forms of play. You know more about the world around you than your child’s friends or even older siblings and relatives, so you can widen your child’s imagination even more by bringing your life experience to playtime.
When young children like infants and preschoolers play with adults, they’re more likely to engage in behaviors that necessitate having a partner for their play. Your child naturally craves interaction with you, and the joy of getting an adult to enter their own world can’t be beat. By providing that positive partnership, you’re giving your child the background to build skills they’ll use throughout their lifetime.
Tips for Playing With Your Child
You’re not alone if the thought of playing with your child induces anxiety. In fact, plenty of parents feel silly or awkward when they try to play pretend or engage in childlike physical activity. You want to be a good playmate for your kid, after all, so you can make sure they get those benefits playtime can offer.
Fortunately, as long as you’re playing, you can rest assured you’re doing it right. Becoming a good playmate doesn’t require learning anything new. You just need to engage in conversation and listen to your child’s stories, actively observing and supporting the mode of play your child chooses. Provide interaction, but without trying to intervene constantly or control the flow of conversation. Instead, let your kid explore the environment they’re in, drawing you into their world. Then, stay engaged and collaborate with your child. You’re giving them the basis for the same behaviors later on in their own life.
Still looking for some ideas for playtime? You can try:
- Catching and throwing: Physical play like this can bolster motor skills and physical development.
- Playing with puzzles: Putting together age-appropriate puzzles teaches about sizes, shapes, and numbers.
- Pretend play: Playing pretend and playing dress-up can boost emotional and social development.
- Sorting toys and objects: This teaches kids about shapes, numbers, and grouping items.
- Storytelling: You don’t need toys and games to have fun! Telling stories together helps develop language skills and imagination.
No matter your chosen mode of play at a given time, the one-on-one session you have with your child will help them develop skills they’ll later apply on their own.
Crème de la Crème just showed you how playtime can be incredibly beneficial for parents and kids alike. Do you have an imaginative game or physical activity your child loves for parent-child playtime? Let us know if you do so we can add some recommendations for other families looking for fun playtime ideas.