Playing with children provides opportunities for them to learn who they are, what they can do, and how to relate to the world around them. Playing with children helps to build warm relationships, feelings of self-worth and competence and strong attachments between family members. Through play, children learn to solve problems, test out ideas, and explore their imaginations. Playtime with adults encourages the development of vocabulary so that children learn to communicate their thoughts and feelings, how to take turns, share, and be sensitive to the feelings of others. Children who engage in make-believe play with adults have fewer behavioural problems when they are older.
Follow your child’s lead. Many parents give lessons on what to do: How to build the castle the right way, how to complete the puzzle correctly. This simply results in strings of commands and corrections that makes play rather unrewarding for everyone. Rather, follow their lead, ideas and imagination. In fact, don't try to teach them anything. Instead, imitate their actions and do what they ask you to do. When you sit back and give them a chance to exercise their imagination, they become more involved and interested in playing, as well as more creative.
Pace the play. How often have you seen children repeat the same thing, or you have to re-read the story again? Yes, it’s boring, and it is tempting to quicken the pace. Children need to rehearse and practise an activity in order to master it and feel confident about their abilities. If they are pushed into a new activity, they may feel incompetent, or they may get frustrated and give up.
Avoid power struggles. Many parents unwittingly set up competitive relationships with their children by teaching rules and how to be good losers. Let children come up with rules that allow them to win. You do not need to worry about your children not learning to lose: Many other aspects of their lives will teach them that, and if you cooperate with their rules and model acceptance, they are more likely to go along with your rules in other situations.
Praise and reinforce appropriate behaviour. It is easy to correct your children when playing. This eventually makes children wary of exploring their ideas or experimenting. During play, it is far better to focus on your children's ideas, thinking or behaviour. Comment on their concentration, persistence, problem solving, inventiveness, expression of feelings, cooperation, motivation, and self-confidence.
And give your attention to their playing. When children are playing quietly, it’s tempting to tiptoe away, make dinner, tidy up, or check your phone. Instead, comment on their quiet play. Without doing so, youngsters may feel ignored when they play quietly, appropriately and independently, only to get attention when they are noisy or deliberately do something to attract attention. If your children do not receive positive attention for appropriate behaviour, they will work to gain negative attention by misbehaving. If you give attention to play, children will have less need to force you to respond to them.
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Daniel is a registered practitioner psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC, PYL32317) and a registered member of the Association of Clinical Psychologists (ACP-UK, 134130).
Published Oct 17 • 47:05
We were joined this week by one of the UKs leading clinical psychologists, Dr Daniel Weisberg to discuss children's mental health.
Dr Daniel founded CAYP Psychology in March 2016. It has since grown into an award-winning, highly sought-after psychological healthcare service for Children, Adolescents and Young People across the UK and online. CAYP Psychology currently has a team of 82 highly qualified clinical psychologists and clinicians, spread across 33 UK-wide clinics and online.