Play is like broccoli and blueberries for your child’s brain. Maybe even more like hugs and fresh air. In other words, it is so very, very important. It is how children learn about the world, their world, others’ ideas and feelings, their own ideas and feelings and it all happens in a comfortable, fun way. They learn consequences, they learn strategies, sharing, being assertive, being kind or what it feels like when someone is not kind. Play is rich. It is made richer when parents are truly present in the play with their child. It also is amazing to see that even spending 10 minutes actually engaged in your child’s play – getting on the floor with them, pretending to be a patient or a student or “the kid,” acting silly – reduces challenging behaviors. So even when there is dinner to be made, laundry to be sorted or a kitchen floor to be cleaned, temporarily say “no” to it and say “yes” to play.
Some resources that may be helpful are: The National Association for the Education of Young Children, a blog series on play and Dr. Laura Markham’s AHA Parenting site has good ideas on how play can help kids work through tough emotional issues that are too difficult to talk about for young children.