Written By Goh Yan Ling

In our hectic world today, most parents juggle the heavy task of working to support the family whilst ensuring that their children keep up with school work. As such, parents tend to overlook valuable opportunities in daily interactions to enhance their children’s emotional and psychological health.

Engaging in play can prove more beneficial to children’s well-being than most parents realise. Have you been neglecting this major factors in raising a happy child?


Why is play important?

Parents often leave children to play by themselves or with their peers, either believing that playing is for young children or that adults are too busy to engage in such seemingly trivial activities. However, play can be a very powerful tool not only to enhance the child’s learning and development but also to build and strengthen relationships through the positive interactions that take place during play time. 

Playing is an important element in promoting cognitive, emotional, physical, and psychosocial and language development in a child. For example, an active four year old boy may refine his motor skills when playing catch while a three year old young girl may be exposed to another language through nursery rhymes.

When parents take the first step to join in the activities their child is deriving fun from, they join in a platform for them to bond with their child in a positive environment. Playing provides endless opportunities for parents to understand and help shape their child’s values. Through the non-threatening medium of playtime, parents can teach their children valuable lessons.

Picture this scenario: When your child gets angry at their sibling for accidentally spoiling their favourite toy, the opportunity to teach your child about regulating emotions presents itself. It also serves as a perfect time to inculcate the value of sharing.

How to play?

For many adults, playing can be a much tougher activity than they expect. Adults often have difficulties suspending their adult perception of the world and allowing themselves to experience play from the perspectives of a child.

That may be the reason why many children prefer to play with their peers as adults often do not make enjoyable playmates! It is important for adults to realise the difference between playing around children and playing with children.

While there is no correct way to play, here are some helpful things to consider when attempting to engage in play with our children.

As long as the play area and the various aspects of the play fulfill safety considerations, do allow the child to explore and lead the game play. Unless you are playing a variation of “Simon says”, a parent’s attempt to dictate everything that happens during play time serves to spoil a child’s fun.

♦ Allow plenty of time for a child to learn and master what they are playing with. While what puzzles them appear trivial and simple to us, it is crucial for your child to learn at their own pace. Do not take over unless help is requested by the child. Letting your child take his time to complete his play also serves to promote a sense of accomplishment and mastery.

 Leave space for experimentation and mistakes. It is alright that your child does not have a roof for her Lego house. After all, that is probably the only way she will be able to move her little figurines around the house to have their breakfast and go to bed.

♦ Be curious and be supportive. Do engage in conversations with your child on his play. Find out his thoughts as he engages in the different ways of playing and you may just be surprised by the creativity and great ideas that occur in his little mind! Your encouragement along the way will boost your child’s learning and development through play.

Last but not least, it is also important for parents to realise that play does not have to be costly nor must it involve the latest toys you buy off the shelves at malls. Some of the best playing experiences can occur through something as simple as pretend play, where a child can become the greatest cook in the world while his parents are his most loyal patrons, or a fabulous day out at the beach where the most thrilled laughter can be drawn from simple acts of sandcastle building and water splashing.