Let’s play the game! Forget your role as an educator and take the time to relax. Taking the time to play with your child has many benefits for both you and your child. And it doesn’t have to be very long or complicated. It can be as simple as doing a puzzle, playing cards, dolls, or a board game, or even making faces together, tickling each other, or throwing cushions at each other. The important thing is to have fun together.
Playing with your child every day, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes, allows you to develop your complicity with him and contributes to enriching the bond between you. When you take part in his games, your child understands that you value what is important to him.
Discovering yourself in a new light
The game allows you to get to know your child better. By playing together, you will discover his interests, what he is capable of doing, and what is challenging for him. It’s also an opportunity for you to see how he organizes his play, the initiatives he takes, his reaction to a tower of blocks that keep falling, his perseverance in completing a puzzle, his imagination, etc.
For his part, your child discovers your less serious side. He realizes that, just like him, you like to laugh and have fun and that you can even have funny ideas.
Fulfilling his need for attention
Your child is looking for your attention because he or she needs to feel loved and important. By playing regularly with your child, you satisfy his need for attention. This makes it less likely that your child will engage in disruptive behaviors to get your attention.
To meet this need, it’s better to play often with your child for short periods of time rather than playing for an hour at a time. Your child may also find it easier to accept a refusal from you if he knows that he will be able to play with you at a certain time of day.
For more information, see our Need for Attention fact sheet.
Living in the moment and relaxing
Laughter is an excellent antidote to stress because it produces a natural hormone, endorphin, in our body that reduces fatigue and stress.
Playing with your child makes you rediscover the pleasure of the moment. In his play, your child is totally focused on what he is doing (e.g.: running with his cars, playing with figurines, drawing). This way, you slow down your usual rhythm when you follow your child in his game and concentrate on what is happening in the present moment.
Your child is also an excellent teacher to teach you the joy of enjoying every moment. Let your child be your guide. Then you’ll have no choice but to have fun, laugh, and temporarily forget about your day’s concerns. Playtime is therefore a stress-free time that is entirely focused on fun.
Let your child lead the game because it’s the only area where he or she can decide everything (unlike eating, dressing, bedtime…). When making decisions, your child feels a great sense of control, which brings pride and self-esteem.
You can propose small variations to enrich the game, but without imposing them. It’s up to your child to decide whether or not to accept them.
If your child is still small, you can simply show interest in their play (e.g., “It looks fun what you are doing”), imitate what they do ( e.g., go around blocks as they do), ask them questions about what they do ( e.g., “Why are you putting all the cars on one side?”) and talk about what you both do (e.g., “Look at the big bridge we made with the cushions!”).
In addition to being guided by your child, it is also important that you are completely in the game, without a tablet, without a phone, and without thinking about dinner or the to-do list.
Keep in mind that the goal is to have fun and share a good time with your child, not to teach them how to play or to turn the play into an educational activity. If the game is always geared towards learning, your child will not feel like playing, but rather doing an exercise or task to please you. The fun may then disappear, and playing is all about having fun!
Do you have too much to do?
If you don’t have enough time or energy after a busy day or if you don’t like to play too much, don’t worry. When your child asks you to play with them, they want you to give them attention. This is what you already do when you :
Giving your child attention is just as important as playing with him.
- Share good times with your child, such as talking with him/her at bath time and mealtimes, singing while driving, reading a book together, taking a walk in the park, dancing in the living room together, etc;
- just watch your child play. Take the opportunity, for example, to comment on his drawings or to encourage him while he builds a tower with his cubes;
- Introduce household chores as a game to your child. Your child will be happy to help you with the daily tasks of setting the table or sorting the laundry, for example.
All these activities give your child a sense of importance since you are giving them time.
Learning to Play Alone
For a child, learning to play alone is as important as sharing playtime with mom or dad. By playing alone, your child develops independence, resourcefulness, imagination, and initiative. Besides, playing alone allows him to decide what he plays with, how, with what, and for how long.
If your child finds it difficult to play without you, avoid sending him to play alone in his room, as he will think you want to get rid of him. Also, don’t tell your child that you don’t understand how bored your child can get with so many toys.
Instead, show him your empathy (e.g. “I know it’s a challenge for you to choose an activity”). Also, show them that you trust their creativity (e.g., “I know you’re going to come up with a great idea”). If necessary, you can give them some ideas (e.g., “If I were your age and talent, I’d want to build something with my blocks right now”).
Need more ideas to encourage your child to play alone? Check out our Playing Alone fact sheet.
- Playing with your child allows you to develop your complicity with him, to enrich the bond that unites you, and to show him that he is important to you.
- It is important to let your child lead the game without trying to make it educational.
- While playing with your child is important, you don’t have to share their games all the time, because they also need to learn to play on their own.