How Much Time Should You Devote to Playing with your Children?


I have been asked this question several times, so I thought I would make a video about it!  You can watch it by going to this link or watching below.  

We all know that I am an advocate for play!

But that also does not mean that you have to be the sole entertainer for your child.  When I visited the preschool classrooms in Reggio Emilia, I was a little shocked at how little the teachers played WITH the children.  The children were definitely engaged in very sophisticated play.  But they were engaged in play with other children. That is what we want, right?  Social skills is one of the greatest benefits of preschool and play.  The teachers in that setting were acting as the facilitators.  

Did children need items or materials for their play?  The teachers were there to make it happen.  

It is okay for children to be bored. 

Boredom creates the necessity for creativity.  Boredom is a good thing.  Often children ask us, as parents, to play with them because they are bored.  We can help children create a list of things they like to play.  The next time they come to us and say they are bored, we can have them choose something from their list. 

Play with other children is more important than play with an adult.

I know in our world right now, playdates are not happening as frequently.  You may not have access to preschool, either.  But if you are able to arrange for play with similar aged peers, do it!  Playing with other children gives your child the opportunity to practice important social emotional skills.  When you are playing Barbies with your child, you may not insist that YOU get to be the mom or you are "not playing anymore." The friend next door may do this.  And it presents a wonderful opportunity for children to problem solve and fix social conflicts on their own.  

You can't quit cold turkey.

If you have been devoting entire days to playing Calico Critters with your child, you won't be able to stop overnight.  Instead the next time you play, find ways to exit and re-enter the play episode.  
Start with small increments at first.  Just take 2 minutes away, and then check back in.  Over time you can increase the time you step out of play.

Exiting during car play:

Take a car and tell the child "I have to drive to the next town to pick up some materials.  I'll be back in a few minutes."

You can even set a timer for the child if they are anxious about you leaving.  When the timer goes off, drive your car back over to check in.

If the child is having trouble sustaining play, give them an item to EXTEND the play episode.  Give the child a toilet paper roll and ask them what they could use it for.  The child may decide to use it as a tunnel.  They may pretend it is a tree.  The options are endless, but let them do the thinking. 

Journal it!

At first it may seem like you are not making any progress getting your child to play with peers or play independently.  Stay the course!  I encourage you to jot down some notes about how your child is doing.  I think over time you will begin to see the progress!

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