When was the last time you played? As children, we played all the time; that was our job! Unfortunately, the older we get the less we play. And even though we have children who are playing constantly, we feel that we need to assume the role of parents instead of playmates. As parents, we are our children’s first and best teachers and playmates. We are the ones they love spending time with, getting dirty with, learning with, and having fun with!
Play is the best vehicle for helping our children to learn, develop and practice an incredible number of skills:
- Social skills – through sharing, taking turns, negotiating, leading, and compromising
- Physical skills – by using both fine and large muscles
- Language, literacy and numeracy skills – through having conversations, playing games and having hands-on experiences
- Self-esteem – by demonstrating successes and abilities
- Becoming more independent – by making their own decisions
- Cooperating, problem solving, and working with others
Through play, children are learning about their world; they are exploring, dreaming, imagining, and creating. The best way for parents to support this learning is by simply joining in their children’s play.
- Observe – watch how your children play. Seeing which activities are their favourites, and learning what skills they excel at and what needs work. Identifying the goals they set for themselves.
- Engage – jump in and join them in play! Now that you have been observing their interests, try supporting them and engaging with them in what they love to do. Follow their lead!
- Be creative – there are no right ways, or right times, for play. There are no correct ways for using toys. Everything and anything can be objects of learning and fun. Use your imagination!
As parents, we often have so many demands in a day that incorporating ourselves into play can seem challenging. Below is a list of routine family activities and ideas for bringing play into them.
- Help your children create a grocery list using pictures cut out of flyers, then challenging them to find all the ingredients on their list before you complete yours.
- Let your children do the navigating of the cart. Let them drive! This is the perfect opportunity for playing with numeracy. Support this activity by using words like: right, left, near, far, up, down, fast, slow, stop, go etc.
- If your children are riding in the cart, together try building a tower or a castle with the items in the cart. See how tall or how wide you can build it, and how many different shapes you can use.
Preparing for dinner:
- Play with the process of measuring, pouring, and mixing! Get messy!
- Challenge your children to a race! Who can set the table the fastest?
- Play a guessing game! How many plates do we need for everyone? What shape are the napkins? What colours are on the table?
- Picnic! Turning any meal or snack into fun and play is easy when you do it picnic style. Try using your back yard, deck or living room. Planning the picnic together with your children, decide where you will go, and who you will invite. Use your imaginations; it can be a picnic on Mars!
- Play “I Spy” or other games involving things you see such as colours of cars or shapes of street signs.
- Count the number of turns you are taking.
- What songs do they know? Try making up a new song.
- Make bath time more playful by adding coloured ice-cube icebergs to their bath water!
- Try tossing a bunch of glow sticks in the tub and turning out the lights!
- Every single trip outside can be a playful adventure if you use your imagination.
- Take a walk and collect ‘treasures’ along the way.
- When you take the garbage out, count how many steps it takes to get to the curb and how many it takes to get back.
- Find some puddles and jump in! If there are no puddles, make your own!
Children want to see their parents having fun. They want to see us being silly, laughing, and getting dirty! More than anything, our children want to share these experiences with us. As parents we focus on sharing our world with our children. Let’s start focusing on letting our children share their world with us!!
Visit our website for information about the 3,2,1,Fun! program.