ILLUMINATION
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How to Bond with Your Child Through Play

It’s easier than you think …

When you think of playing with your children, what do you visualise? Do you see yourself with your child out in the park playing catch? Do you see yourself seated on the floor helping your child with a jigsaw puzzle? Or do you imagine setting aside a scheduled time to play with them?

Either way, if you are thinking about being a part of your child’s playtime, you’re on the right path. The pandemic has rendered many parents too busy or stressed to carve out the time to connect with their children through play.

But you can always begin now. Playing with your child will help strengthen your bond, enhance their childhood help you build life-long memories. Before we begin to do that though, we must figure out what are the right ways in which we can play with our children. These are extremely simple and I detail them out below:

1. Learn to let go:

Children need to be the focus of play, not parents’ expectations. (Image from Learning Matters)

The first and foremost rule to remember when connecting with children through play is to let go. Remind yourself that play needs to be child-centric. Hence, your role is to adapt yourself to what your child wants to do and not the other way around. This also means not defining or assuming any adult expectations. While, as adults, we might be used to systems and organising, we must think from the child’s point of view. They are expecting and in need of free play, hence any adult thinking must stay at bay.

A useful way of doing this is to imagine your childhood or yourself as a child. How did you enjoy the energy, the enthusiasm, the freedom and the carefree aspect of play? Bring those emotions when you’re beginning to play with your child.

2. Include storytelling and involve children:

Reading and storytelling with children at an early age can facilitate their cognitive growth.

Everyone loves a good story! Children, especially, are fascinated by stories. Once again, without pre-defining anything for your child, start an impromptu storytelling session where the child is equally involved as you. Remember, this is different from simply reading.

During storytelling, you can expand your imagination far and wide. Make up characters or scenarios; let the child join you in the process. Maybe you say one line and he or she follows. Remember to let it flow and not be restricted by the nuances of reality.

Also, while storytelling, emote as much as you can. If you’re talking about an animal, try to speak in their voice or walk like them. If you’re using a new word, try to act it out so children can understand its meaning. For example, What a ferocious cat! Enact what ferocious would look like to add some fun to the process.

3. Leave behind games or organised activities:

While it might seem tempting to pick up a board game when playing with your child, that goes against the definition of free play. Play, in its purest form, never requires any games or fancy equipment.

You can plan the material you would play with such as “Today, we will paint our hearts out on cardboard boxes” but keep it a surprise for your child. Children enjoy the element of surprise and curiosity.

Also, leave behind the idea of any organised sports like tennis or cricket because that inhibits children’s creativity. Play will naturally spark creative thinking, leadership, problem solving and collaboration among children. An organised sport, on the other hand, will force them to stick to rules.

4. Sing and dance:

Music and movement help children build better sensory experiences.

This is the easiest yet most engaging form of play. If you’re struggling with deciding what or how to play with your child, simply turn on some music that your child also enjoys and break yourself into a jamming or dancing session.

Not only is this a great form of physical play, but it will also build an emotional bond with you and your child. Once again, let them take the lead. Maybe they want to teach you a new dance move or play a song of their choice. You can always co-create a fun playlist with your child and have a dance session every day or every week as it works for the both of you.

Conclusion:

When it comes to playing with your child, think old-school. How did your parents play with you? Did you just run around the house? Or read a story together? Or play with stones and beads available at home? Or have a good laugh after a dress-up session?

Playing with your child should feel like the most natural and fun part of your day and of your connection with them. Do not overthink or over-plan it. You don’t need to spend excessively on games or toys. When you and your child are ready to play together, find the first suitable thing around the house that seems fun and can be explored. And voila, you would already be closer to building that special bond with your child!

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Sonya Philip

Sonya Philip

Founder, Learning Matters

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