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Dr. Ann Barbour is Professor of Early Childhood Education at California State University, Los Angeles, (CSULA) and Series Content Advisor for the Peabody Award winning daily television series A Place of Our Own and Los Niños en Su Casa. Read more »
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When you think about your own childhood, do you recall times when you and your parents played together? Maybe it was hide-and-seek, or Monopoly or rock-paper-scissors. I remember pretending to be circus performers with my mom and dad, and playing gin rummy with my grandmother.
We used to think of family games like these as inexpensive entertainment or simple ways to pass the time. Now, with competing demands on everyone's time, the excess of toys marketed to kids, and so many electronic diversions, these kinds of activities can seem a bit dated. But they are the stuff memories are made of. They were fun, and they allowed us a chance to feel close to people we love. That's reason enough to play together as a family! But there are also many other benefits of play--and research showing its role in children's development.
Play is both a catalyst and context for learning. Through play, children make sense of their experiences, and express their ideas and emotions. Play helps them develop and practice skills underlying success in school and beyond: self-control, working memory, cognitive flexibility, persistence, and following rules among others. Playing with others also helps children build relationships.
We also know that despite evidence of the benefits of play, opportunities to play have diminished. Kids are more likely to be involved in scheduled and structured activities, and plugged into digital devises. To make matters worse, play has largely disappeared from the school day, even in the earliest grades.
So what does this mean for parents? And how does playing with your child fit into the picture?
While you'll find many opportunities to capitalize on teachable moments during play, the key is to do what comes naturally to you. Playing together shouldn't be a chore or something you feel pressure to do. Enjoy the time you spend with your child. It will pass all too soon! If you don't like card games, ride bikes or dance together. Take cues from what interests your child and follow his lead. Playing together will help you build strong connections that he will rely on as he grows and quite possibly memories that will last a
Here are a few more simple activities you and your child or family might enjoy:
Sorry, Ann Barbour is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.