The Importance of Parents Playing with Their Children

The Importance of Parents Playing with Their Children

Play has multiple benefits for a child, it is a tool of learning and contributes to physical, mental, and social health. Learning is reinforced through play. Specifically, play with parents is important and different from play with siblings or friends. Parent-child play has been shown to add more to the foundation of a child’s ability to interact socially - more so than play with other children.

Understandably, after a long day of work and a struggle through traffic to get home, many parents do not feel energised to join their young child in play. This kind of play demands one-on-one interaction with a child, which adds to a parents struggle to find energy and time for the play time. Furthermore, spending time doing school homework does not replace the play interaction. Children learn important skill sets through play with their parents.

Play grows and strengthens the bond between parents and children. The better the relationship between parent and child, the better a child behaves towards it's parent and they will more readily comply with requests. Playing with your child provides them with therapeutic benefits. Stressful events can be healed through the act of non-directive play - this is how a play therapist, trained in non-directive play would deal with your child.

It is up to the parents to prioritise play, play can happen both indoors or outdoors. When playing with your child, in this case an individual child without their siblings, allow them to lead or direct the play. It is important for you are engaged, that you listen to and watch your child.  This will give you an idea of some of the feelings your child is expressing during play.  Part of the process is to describe out loud what your child is doing, and to say out loud what you think your child is feeling through his or her play with the toys. Don't be afraid of being wrong, a child will correct you if you are wrong. Become aware of your child’s face and body language in order to better understand what their feelings are. By doing these two things, you are letting your child know that you are interested and that you value what he or she is saying and doing.

Research suggests that there are benefits for parents too as they play with their child. The hormone oxytocin plays a major role in parent-infant bonding as well as other positive social and emotional behaviours . Oxytocin levels raise when a mother engages in loving play with their infant or child, and for fathers too when they connect in play with their children.