School is finally over, and the kids are ready to play all day! While this may sound fun to some of you, playing with children doesn’t always come naturally to parents. Spending time playing with your children is essential as children learn so much through play. In fact, three play is so important to a child’s development, that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has recognized it as a right of every child.
The most important thing is to spend time with your child that is intentional and present. Kids know when we are distracted so try to put away your phones and have fun together this summer. Once the organized activities that keep our days and evenings busy are over, we have more time to make playing our job!
Get outside – if I leave all the distractions of household chores inside, I find I can give more of myself to my son. We make up simple scavenger hunts and complete playground obstacle courses. My son loves it when I use a timer to see how fast he can finish a course. He doesn’t even realize he’s learning while he plays- going around the swings, up the ladder, down the slide and running to the red bench. Summer is also the perfect time to draw together with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles or play outside with water. We’ve spent hours seeing what will float, pouring water from one container to another, and spraying things with the hose!
Take a road trip – the car is the great place to play games such as “I spy” or the “Thinking Game.” We try to name three things that belong to a category or share an attribute, such as zoo animals or items that are hot. We see who can find a particular letter on a license plate, or who can spot three things that are blue. Turning up the music is another excellent way to engage together in the car. It doesn’t always have to be kids music, and we try to find songs that get both of us singing along!
Work side by side – what is work for me, is considered “play” to my son. He loves to help out, so I try to get him involved in some household chores. It sometimes takes longer to get a job done, but he likes to help sort laundry, water plants or unload the dishwasher. Preparing snacks and meals together can also be a great learning experience. My son loves to share meals that he has helped create.
Find things that you both like to do and do them together – sometimes your kids will want to play things that you don’t enjoy. For example, I don’t love building Lego, but I love playing games. So, I often steer my son towards activities where we can practice turn taking and skills such as colour and number recognition. Sometimes we play board games, and other times we play something we have made up like the Colour Game. Someone says a colour, and everyone has to find and touch something that colour. It’s a game we can play indoors or outside. When we play together, we play what suits us both. He can always build Lego with his dad!
Appreciate each other- when my son sees me enjoying spending time with him, he feels important. I try to match his enthusiasm and show an interest in what he is doing. Most importantly, we have fun together!
Lyda Bennett is a Speech Language Pathologist with almost 20 years experience. Lyda grew up in British Columbia but has called Alberta home since obtaining her Masters from the University of Alberta in 1999. She has spent the majority of her career working with preschoolers and their families.