Written by Lakeisha Smith, MSW, CADC
Why is “connection” important?
Over the years many experts have come to realize how important relationships are throughout the lifespan. The various connections we build with others can have a major impact, whether positive or negative, on the outcomes of our lives. So, it’s good news that having a good support system and feeling connected to others can really make a difference in how we deal with stress and even improve our quality of life. When it comes to children, though, relationships are often even more influential for a number of reasons.
The benefits of positive relationships for children include:
· Lower risk of mental health disorders
· Lower risk of substance use disorders
· Healthier romantic relationships
· Strengthened immune system
· Longer life expectancy
· Lower risk of suicide
· Lower risk of chronic illness
With all of the great research out there, it’s probably likely that you already understand how important it is to connect with your kids, but with the many stresses and responsibilities of day to day life it might be difficult finding time and ways to do this.
The good news is that one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to connect with your children, of any age, is through play. Parent and child play can provide endless opportunities for a child to learn new skills and is also linked to cognitive development, improved gross motor skills, and peer group leadership!
Parent and child play can take many different forms, but to achieve the best results there are a few things parents should keep in mind.
Tips for Parent & Child Play
1. Parents must make sure to remember that when it comes to play, children are the experts. Kids have much more stamina, enthusiasm, and imagination than adults, which is why parent and child play can be a great way for kids to regain confidence and self-esteem.
2. Make sure that during play you follow your child’s lead. This means avoiding the urge to control the play and just going with the flow of what your child is doing in the moment. Remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to play, and by allowing your child to lead you can gain some valuable insight into how their little mind works.
3. In order to truly connect with a child during play you must be actively involved. This means listening fully, observing, and engaging in a conversation about what’s happening. Children can sense when our hearts aren’t in it, so make sure you set aside distractions to make the most of the time you spend with your child.
4. Don’t beat yourself up if you are feeling drained and play seems like a daunting task. Instead, try talking to someone you trust or practicing some self-care. Parenting is hard work so at times we have to prioritize our own well-being in order to be the best versions of ourselves for our children.
5. Don’t be afraid to let loose and get silly!
Quick & Low-Cost Ideas for Creative Play
Kids don’t need expensive toys to have fun because it’s all about the bond you are building during this special time together! Below you will find some quick and free and low-cost play ideas:
· Play hide and seek in the dark
· Have a sock puppet show
· Family dance party
· Go camping indoors/in the backyard
· Have a treasure hunt
· Cook together
· Have a race
· Cloud watching
· Play board games
· Make a collage
· Indoor obstacle course
· Pillow fight
· Watch a movie together
· Make cupcakes/cookies
· Explore nature
· Read a book together
In summary, playing with your children creates a lasting bond and shows them that they are loved and appreciated. When families develop strong bonds, they tend to become more cooperative, supportive, and better at open communication. Playing is a great way to make memories that last, while also helping your children learn and explore new ideas.
A wise man once said, “The family who plays together stays together”, so make sure to get out there and have some FUN!
Lin, Y. (2010). Improving parent-child relationships through block play. Education, 130(3), 461-469.
Lindsey, E. W., & Mize, J. (2000). Parent–child physical and pretense play: Links to children's social competence. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 46(4), 565-591.
Stevenson, M. B., Leavitt, L. A., Thompson, R. H., & Roach, M. A. (1988). A social relations model analysis of parent and child play. Developmental Psychology, 24(1), 101-108.
Playing With Your Child - Child Development Institute. Retrieved October 8, 2020, from https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children/pl5/