Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Five Simple Ways to Play with your Children

Plugged in at the Apple Store
Parents, this post is an all out plea.  Please put down your phones and play with your children.  They need your attention.  It is what they live for.  They adore the time that you spend focusing your attention on them.  They crave it.  You are like a drug to them.  They need you to spend time interacting with them.  And when they don't get any, they turn manic.

So if you truthfully haven't been the best in this department, how are you to change?  What can you do?  Where do you start?  Here are some practical tips to help you begin to build time into your busy schedule for your most important job...raising your children.

1.  Make a Playdate with your Kids.  Put it on the calendar if you need to.  Or work it into your weekly schedule.  Play cannot take place without time devoted to it, and finding the time is only going to happen if you plan for it.  Maybe it could be every week night after dinner, or Saturday mornings and two evenings a week.  Only you know what will work in your family, but prioritize this important time on your calendar so you don't keep missing out.

2.  Experiment with Indoor and Outdoor Play.  If you tend to always reach for games, try bundling up for an afternoon of sledding or skating, or take a trek through a snowy forest preserve.  If you tend to play with your children out of doors, mix it up and play board games or build a model or have a tea party.  Push yourself to experience new things with your children.

3.  Embrace Imaginary Play.  Kids love forts made from blankets that become castles, or rows of chairs that are rocket ships.  Interacting with your children and encouraging them to use their imagination will help them develop important problem solving and critical thinking skills.

4.  Get out the board games.  Playing board games teaches children about delayed gratification, rule following and sportsman ship.  Playing games requires taking turns, following the rules, and not always winning.  These are all important lessons for social and emotional growth.

5.  Treat your children to special "date nights".  One of the best things my husband and I did while raising our four children was to institute a "date" night with one child per month.  On this night, we would take the one child out for a special event--like bowling, or miniature golf, or a carriage ride in the city.  Spending this time focused on just the one child helped us develop our special bonds and allowed each of them to receive all of our undivided attention a few times per year.  Smaller families might not need to do this as frequently but for families with four or more children, this is an awesome  idea to put into practice.  I think this helped us get to know our children better and allowed them to feel that all important love and acceptance from us, on a somewhat regular basis.  Strengthening the bonds of your family is never time wasted.

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying "Play is the highest form of research".  But I worry that in these days filled with technology our children are not learning how to play.  Do your part for your children and make the time to teach them to play...not virtually on their tablets and phones but in the real world with real experiences and time spent with you.

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