Benefits Of Parents And Caregivers Playing With Children For Child Development Are More Than Imagined

Danyel Mira Brisk's picture
Playing with kids outdoors

Fun With Your Kids Has Serious Consequences. Children need play for healthy development. Play is like the language of children. It a big part of how they interact with and get to know the world around them. How they feel safe and grow. Just as much, they need us - their attentive, present caregivers. The way we play with them teaches them how to feel and think about the world around them and, most importantly, themselves.

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The kids beckon me to jump in the pool with them. “Come play with us!” they plee. Sometimes the message is as distinct and explicit as that. Often times it is much more subtle and needs interpretation and a deeper understanding of their needs. However, the message is clear - children need our present, unadulterated, non judgemental, freely chosen, light and open hearted attention and interaction, which essentially adds up to and defines play. But, what are the benefits of playing with our children really and why does it matter so much for their healthy development? Understanding this may make a difference in how you interact with them and thus the resulting behavior.

What is play really, and why do kids need it?
While we use the terms casually, it is typically hard for adults to relax enough to truly experience what it is to be playful again. It is a natural and necessary part of who we are as humans. Let’s understand first and foremost what play is. It is an expression of freedom to a large extent, self-chosen and self-directed, allowing freedom to start and stop at any time.

Playful interaction has many benefits and creates a safe container from which kids can grow, learn, explore new things, which is essentially their main job description is at that age. It allow for outside-the-box thinking, imagination building, problem solving, creativity, safe interactions and trust building, which in fact are all key components of leadership and success in the adult world as well. It is nothing short of a foundation for healthy development in children. Active play also builds strong bodies, alert brains and boosts the immune system, to name just a few benefits.

So what are the benefits of parents playing with kids?
Play is like the language of children. It a big part of how they interact with and get to know the world around them. How they feel safe and grow. Just as much, they need us - their attentive, present caregivers. The way we play with them teaches them how to feel and think about the world around them and, most importantly, themselves.

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Engaged activity for the purpose of enjoyment, creativity and recreation fills multiple needs of ours at once. Come to think of it, we all need that. Most of us have simply conformed to more of the social norms that tell us that only children play and have fun in such a free way. However, think of some of the best times you have had with your partner, friends or even children. Doesn’t that involve some kind of playfulness? Aren't those the times that some of the strongest bonds were formed?

Children learn more than we realize by watching and, more importantly, interacting with us. They also learn from the lack of our interaction. Either way, whether and how we play and interact with them, we give them serious messages about their self worth, about who they are. For all the benefits and reasons to play and interact in simple, joyous ways with your children, this is by far the most far reaching. Here are some other key benefits.

Key healthy developmental benefits of playing with your child:

  • Teaches and models social interactions building stronger psychological and social development
  • Builds stronger bonds and builds trust within the relationship
  • As their main caregivers, it deeply impacts their sense of self-worth and sense of trust in the world around them
  • Increases their sense of emotional safety and security
  • Provides needed and positive physical contact
  • Provides needed direct and focused positive and affirming attention on the child
  • Makes them feel cared for and special, building their self-esteem
  • Builds self-confidence, willingness to try new things and sense of adventurousness
  • Develops a sense of boundaries and of themselves and others through interactions
  • Opens their heart and mind to new possibilities, encouraging more open-mindedness
  • Practice speech and language patterns
  • Practice working together with others and working things out
  • Mental alertness and stimulation
  • Stronger muscles, bones and immune systems
  • Physically - active physical play is the best for physical health. Yes, some ‘screen time’ can be useful for hand-eye coordination. Let’s not forget the minimum of 60 minutes a day recommendation of active play and exercise.

      Above all, remember “imagination is more important than Knowledge,” as Albert Einstein famously stated. He continued, “For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." Kids have an upper hand on us in this category as they have not just been totally ‘socially conditioned’ to think the other way around yet. Let’s value this skill and natural ability of theirs and not only accept but foster and encourage it. Allow them to think out of the box and see what ‘could be’, not only what is. Isn’t that what makes great leaders, after all. Let’s develop children that are ready to take on the new challenges of the future.

      Now, please excuse me. I will have to go. The kids are calling me to come play!

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