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I have one regret as a mother of adult children. I regret that I didn't spend more time playing and less time mothering.
When my girls were small we had 2 tiny little bread pans, 2 tiny little aprons, 2 tiny little mixing bowls and 2 tiny little spoons. I remember pushing chairs to the counter and letting my 4 and 3-year-old daughters mix and knead bread with me. Each one proudly putting their roll of dough into their tiny bread pan and waiting while it baked. Then we covered our loaves with melted butter and, slice by slice, had a tiny tea party for 3.
I didn't realize how much they loved playing with mom until I tried to give away their aprons. I heard my teenage girls talk reverently about baking bread. As they talked, I realized we had done much more than bake bread together. We had created a relationship whose ingredients included time, memories and love.
Peter Gray, Ph.D. in his article on the value of play for Psychology Today says, "Play in our species serves many valuable purposes. It is a means by which children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and moral capacities. It is a means of creating and preserving friendships. It also provides state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving and all sorts of creative endeavors."
"Psychology Today" also shared the importance of "make believe" or pretending during play. In Scott Barry Kaufman's article "The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development," he quotes Hughes who said, "Taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy (Hughes, 1999)."
Sometimes, as parents, we think that lectures, books, lessons and time in class are the best ways to teach our children, when, in fact, playing pirates may teach your children about good, evil, choices, empathy, problem solving, communication and many many more important life skills than piano or ballet.
So, now that you know just a tiny bit about the importance of play for your child, here are some fun ideas to get you started playing.
Rules of play:
- Get down on the floor. Stoop to your child's level. You can't sit in one spot and play so wear comfortable clothes and plan to crawl. This is when Yoga Pants are called for.
- Plan to get dirty. Be comfortable getting your hands and clothes dirty. What you are doing is more important than how you look. Don't plan on glamorous selfies.
- Let go of your pride. Remember that you are in your child's world and let them have some power. Teach them the fine arts of negotiation and leadership by letting them take charge of the direction of your play.
Playing house. You don't have to have the latest child's play kitchen or toys. Keep a designated drawer full of cups, saucers, silverware and aprons your child can get out and use whenever they want. Get on the floor and join them or invite them to the counter and let them create. Let them choose any "safe" ingredients they want and see what they make. Use play dough to make play food. Use boxes to make furniture.