Free Your Child’s Mind With Playtime
With the steady encroachment of technology into the average home and the emphasis on academics in school early on, most children these days lose out on valuable playtime at home and in school.
This is especially in terms of unstructured play where children are free to initiate their own play without being dependent on instructions.
And while the value of play in child development has long been recognized, today’s lifestyles and priorities continue to reduce or deprive the children’s exposure to this essential element of their growth.
Through play, children:
- Have opportunities to be physically active, thereby reaping certain health benefits
- Are free to explore and imagine fun ways of spending their time
- Learn valuable life skills such as leadership and cooperation
- Get to practice individualized self-directed play as well as social play
- Develop essential social skills and form bonds with other children and their toys
- Cultivate independence and self-confidence
So how do you make time for playtime in your child’s life, ensuring that they are able to express themselves freely and are encouraged to participate in activities that they can simply enjoy while learning in the process?
1. No rules, rules
Give your children ample time to engage in free unstructured play. An example of this would be introducing toy molding clay and showing them how they can create forms and shapes with them, giving them free rein to come up with whatever strikes their fancy.
Another example of a good toy for this type of play are the wooden toy building blocks which children can stack and play with in any way they want. Boys and girls can easily spend hours of unstructured fun creating their own little villages or adventures with colorful wooden blocks.
2. Limit access to electronic media
This is especially true for older children already exposed to the television, tablets and computers. It is always a bad idea to have a television in your children’s bedroom, so steer clear of this option. If they must use tablets or computers, allocate a schedule when they are allowed to make use of these devices. Set a good example by reducing your own PC and smartphone use at home as well.
3. Give them space
Whenever possible, let your kids have their own little corner or play area where they are surrounded by books and toys appropriate for their age. Encourage them to make use of their own space, and give them ample time to engage in play or voluntary reading. Respect their time and let them know in advance when it is time for a meal or a snack.
4. Enjoy the outdoors
Most parents fear the risks of allowing their children to play outside without parental supervision, but this should not get in the way of your kids getting opportunities to play outdoors and enjoy physical activities like playing tag, hide and seek, football, etc.
Arrange for play dates with fellow parents and schedule accordingly so that the fear of leaving children unsupervised in a public park goes away. That way, you can rest easy, and your children can experience what it is to really be a kid.
5. Make DIY toys together
Just like before, you can still enjoy the old-fashioned pleasure of creating simple toys from scratch such as sock puppets, paper dolls, cardboard forts, blanket tents, paper beads, balance boards and painted rocks.
Make time to explore this additional option of creating toys with your children. Let them replicate the process so they can later enjoy playing with something they made themselves.
When choosing toys, help kids make thoughtful decisions by taking time to discuss the pros and cons of buying one toy over another with them. Avoid buying them too many, too soon so they do not get bored easily, and for them to learn to value their own possessions. Train them to maintain and put away their toys in proper storage containers, but do not police them while they are still at play.
Wondering what fun educational toy you should buy for your little one today or this coming holiday season? There are a number of toy makers which not only showcase toys for kids of all ages, but also have options that are both durable and eco-friendly.
Sreeya Patil Wiesner is the founder of EcoToys. She started her online toy store with an aim to provide healthy, safe and eco-friendly wooden toys to kids 0-6 years of age in the UAE.