When you have fun with your child, you spend quality time together in addition to strengthening the bond that unites you.
When you have fun with your child, you spend quality time together in addition to strengthening the bond that unites you. But that doesn’t mean you need to say yes every time he asks you to play with him.
From work to meals to household chores, days can often seem like a race against the clock. Taking the time to stop a few minutes to play with your toddler is good for both him and you! “It’s a special moment between parent and child that allows you to enjoy each other’s company and discover each other through fun, which nurtures and strengthens your relationship,” says occupational therapist Josiane Caron Santha. “What’s more, when parents are able to set aside their worries and enter their child’s world, they can truly enjoy the present moment.” Not to mention that humour and laughter also reduce stress!
“I love playing with my children because it’s our special time together,” says Stéphane Richard, dad to 2-year-old Loïc and 4-month-old Jasmine. “For example, my son and I have a lot of fun playing hide-and-seek, playing with cars, and floating boats in the bath. It’s important for me to take the time to play with my kids because I don’t see them for very long during the day.”
Play should take up a large part of your child’s day. Rest assured, there’s no such thing as too much play! The fact is, however, that mealtimes, naps, travel and daily care can take up so much of your child’s day that he has little time left to play. On average, play fills up 20% of a young child’s time. Since playing helps your toddler learn a lot of new things, it’s better to avoid organizing every minute of your child’s schedule so as to leave him with as much time as possible to play.
Who leads playtime?
When you play with your child, you need to let him take the lead. It’s up to him to decide which adventures the farm animals will have or what you’re going to build together with his blocks. This will help him build confidence and develop his independence and creativity.
Moreover, if your child encounters a difficulty while playing, it’s best not to solve it for him. “Ideally, you should ask him questions to encourage him to reason through it and find the solution on his own,” says Rolande Filion. For example, you can ask: “Is there another way to get the triangle to fit into this space? Do you think this little guy is small enough to sit in the truck?” This is what dad Jean-Éric Barabé does with his 4-year-old son, Gaël. “I encourage him to try again when he doesn’t get it the first time, and I give him clues without giving him the answer.”
I don’t know what to do!
“Mommy, look at me!”, “Daddy, come play with me!” Behind these words is a child who wants attention. By playing with your child regularly, even just for 15 minutes a day, you will be one step ahead of his need for attention. He’ll therefore be less likely to constantly ask you to play with him.
That said, it’s not always necessary to sit and race toy cars on the floor with your child. Sometimes you can have fun with him while doing one of your chores. For example, while Valérie Dionne prepares dinner or folds clothes, she plays along with her son at superhero. For her part, Véronique Viau, mom to 17-month-old Jessy, lets her son water the plants while she gardens, and takes out his toy mop for him when she sweeps. Integrating play with chores is another way to play together and spend quality time with your toddler.
When your child asks you to play with him, what he’s really asking for is your attention.
Yes, it’s beneficial to play with your child, but from the age of 2, he should also be left to play freely, alone or with other children. “In everyday life, adults often tell children what to do,” says Katherine Frohlich, professor with the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at Université de Montréal, who led a study on free play. “I believe it’s important to give them a little more freedom when they play.” By playing freely, your child can decide what and how he wants to play, without needing to follow an adult’s rules or a structured format. This stimulates his creativity and his ability to problem-solve. “It’s also an opportunity for your child to do what he really likes and to enter a world of entirely his own making,” concludes Josiane Caron Santha.
Playing is essential for your child’s overall development.
From solitary play, your child moves on to parallel play and then cooperative play.
It’s good to play a few minutes with your child every day to give him attention and nurture the bond that unites you.
Your child needs periods of free play, where he can decide what and how he wants to play.
Source: Naître et grandir magazine, December 2015
Research and copywriting: Nathalie Vallerand
Scientific review: Sarah Landry, Professor, Department of Educational Psychology and Adult Education at Université de Montréal
*Above: Jessy and Véronique Viau, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. | Photo: Maxim Morin