Mama, how often do you play? Truly take a moment to think of the last time you freed your mind of tasks and expectations and engaged in play. If we had to guess, it’s probably been a hot minute. It has been for us, too.
Can you remember how you played as a child, and the way it made you feel? Think of the things you dreamed up, touched, and created. Mud, leaves, acorns, and flowers became a magical potion. Your backyard was a mystical, far-reaching land full of treasures and elaborate stories to be thought up, and how wonderful it was if you had the time to do so! Now, think of the excitement you felt when your parent joined in on the fun. There was nothing better than when mom or dad added the flair that only they could, and they always made playing that much more exciting. The special experiences created when parent and child play are unique in their own right, and can be fondly remembered by both parent and child for a lifetime.
Play is not only a developmental tool to aid in the growth of a healthy child, it is equally as important to building and maintaining a strong parent-child bond. It is a way to bond with your baby that requires almost nothing but your own imaginations and time.
According to the American Pediatrics Association, “Parents who have the opportunity to glimpse into their children’s world learn to communicate more effectively with their children and are given another setting to offer gentle, nurturing guidance. Less verbal children may be able to express their views, experiences, and even frustrations through play, allowing their parents an opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of their perspective. Quite simply, play offers parents a wonderful opportunity to engage fully with their children.”
As wonderful as this news is, the APA also states that “Some children are given less time for free exploratory play as they are hurried to adapt into adult roles and prepare for their future at earlier ages. Parents are receiving carefully marketed messages that good parents expose their children to every opportunity to excel, buy a plethora of enrichment tools, and ensure their children participate in a wide variety of activities. As a result, much of parent-child time is spent arranging special activities or transporting children between those activities.”
The speed of the world is steadily becoming faster and faster. As parents, we will constantly be berated with messages of what we “need” to be good parents and have happy and healthy children. While frustrating, it is okay to take a step back from the hustle and hurry to slow down and simply play. It can be difficult to break away from the speed life demands of us, but we’d all feel a little more balanced after some playtime.
By facilitating play and exploring, everyone learns. As the caregiver, you are presented with unprompted opportunities to establish trust and learn how to best honor each of your children's unique personalities. What better way to discover your child’s interests than exploring all kinds of different playstyles and activities together? Perhaps you will discover something that interests them, like building forts out of sticks, searching for sea glass, or assembling crafts.
One of the many beautiful parts of life is that we are all so different. Although your child is part of you, they are not you. With every sound and hand motion they are making an attempt to connect and communicate. Through play, you may unlock a piece of your child’s self that wouldn’t have shown itself any other way.
Instill a sense of wonder and imagination. Start with building a reading fort on the next rainy day. Or birding when the sun is shining. Not only will playing in these ways help your child explore and learn new skills, but you’ll both have fun while doing it.
Let’s take a step away from the hurriedness and explore the world around us. Play is an activity for all ages, and a lifelong pastime. Along with your baby, you never know what you might learn.
Life is full of things that demand our time, but slowing down and enjoying time playing with your child is worth carving out the time for. Create a routine that implements frequent free play, for all of you.
Do you have a favorite activity to play? Share it with us by tagging us on Instagram!