The Importance of Adult Participation in Child Play

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights states that every child has a right to play, just as he or she has a right to life, education, and health. Theorists such as Lev Vygotsky claim play helps children increase their ability to interact with others, practice taking on different roles, and develop creativity. Above all, through play, children master new skills and learn new information about the world.

Parents and Guilt
Too often, parents misunderstand studies about the benefits of play. They end up feeling guilty that they are not doing enough to guide their children’s development. They worry that if they do not supply their children with the right play experiences at the right ages, their children will fall behind other children, fail at school, and ultimately fail at life!

Soon learning becomes a competition. By controlling the way their children play, parents attempt to attain a specific result-quantifiable success. Afraid that skipping any one activity will put their child behind other children, parents sign their child up for everything and fill any free time left with rote flashcard drills.

Activities such as ballet lessons, music lessons, karate lessons, foreign language classes, and participation in sports teams are all wonderful taken one or two at a time. However, if you pile too many on at once, you neglect one of the most important developmental opportunities that you can offer your child-open-ended, child-driven play that is shared at certain times with you.

The Benefits of Play
Children learn essential life skills by copying adult role models. From the moment your child is born, you are their first and best toy and playmate. As they grow older, connecting with them through shared play experiences strengthens the bond between parent and child and keeps lines of communication open even when daily schedules become more hectic and time together harder to arrange.

However, children also need time and space to explore the world and their imaginations by themselves. Adults must never take over playtime and direct a child’s every 震動棒 action. As Kenneth R. Ginsburg (associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine) and two committees for the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote in a recent clinical report, “When play is controlled by adults, children acquiesce to adult rules and concerns and lose some benefits of play, particularly in developing creativity, leadership and group skills.”

Choosing and using appropriate toys can help you understand when to engage actively in play with your child and when to let your child take charge…

Active Interaction
For many toys, both you and your child must take an active role because the toy requires at least two players. For younger children, you can both take an active role in rolling or throwing balls back and forth. For older children, sports equipment such as bats, mitts, soccer balls, basketballs, and footballs can lead to hours of fun, physical activity, and unobtrusive lessons in taking turns, following the rules, good sportsmanship, and (if you play together against another opponent) cooperation and communication. Multi-player games (such as chess, checkers, Monopoly, or Jenga) can also reinforce these lessons.

Active Modeling and Passive Following
Childhood should be a journey, not a race, with plenty of time allowed along the way for investigations and discoveries. Get for your child what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls “true toys,” ones that lead to open-ended play instead of one or two closed-ended outcomes that a child is rushed to master. Such toys include blocks, building sets such as Legos, costumes and props for dress-up and role-playing, dolls and puppets, people and animal figurines, toy playsets, play food, and toy vehicles.

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