The hours and minutes of a day can easily escape you when caring for young children. By the time bedtime arrives, you may realize that you have spent the day caring for your children without spending quality time with them. Whether you work or stay home, the day is full of distraction. How often do we truly offer our full attention to our children?
Most parents are very accomplished at doing things for their children, but struggle with being present with their children. We change diapers, shuttle to sports, carpool to school, make meals, do laundry, pay the bills, etc… but how often amongst the chaos of life do we offer our children our undivided attention? You are not alone if you find it hard to carve out time each day just for play. The Intelligent Nest’s remedy? Commit to making quality time a priority and pencil in a parent-child playdate each day for 30 minutes.
Why Schedule Parent-Child Playdates?
Play is of the utmost importance and is one of the most essential part of your child’s day. Children do not learn and think like adults do. Adults take classes and read books to learn, young children play. They play in various ways to meet various developmental needs. When children play with their parents, they absorb and directly learn new academic and social skills, amongst other things. They also receive love through your presence as it validates their interests and serious work (learning through play).
How to Conduct Parent-Child Playdate
Pencil in 30 minutes of Play
If you don’t have 30 minutes to offer, consider pruning other activities and commitments, as daily, quality time spent with you if far more valuable to a child’s whole developmental map than mastering soccer or ballet. Beginners, start by scheduling a 10 minute parent-child playdate each day and work to increase your time playing until you reach the 30 minute goal.
Quality v. Quantity
Be a good playmate for your child! Put away your phone and tablet, turn off the news, and choose to ignore any and all distractions that might come your way. Simply offer your complete attention to your child. Sit next to them. Look in their eyes. Listen closely to what they say to you. Your thirty-minute playdate will be wasted if you are not fully present and available.
Let your child lead
Assume the passive role in your relationship on your playdates. No pressure and no agenda needed. You are not your child’s entertainer. Listen to and watch your child. Follow their lead. It’s only thirty minutes! As the passive player it is important to avoid using playtime to teach your child skills and knowledge. If they want to count with you, then count, but do not force them to learn as you direct. They will naturally learn and develop as you play together. Their brains are wired to learn through observation of you. Instead of teaching, actively listen by leaning in, give eye-contact and ask thoughtful questions. Be a good playmate!
Allow Parallel Play
Small children often prefer to engage in parallel play (playing near others, without directly playing with others). Your child may want to build with blocks, while you do a puzzle. Your presence validates their work (learning through play). If your child wants to engage in parallel play, continue to sit with your child and play your own game (avoid temptation to nap or pick up your phone). Rest assured that this time is not being wasted!
Give Imaginative Play a Chance
There is no shame in admitting that you don’t like playing pretend. If your child wants you to play pretend and you feel uncomfortable doing so, it is OK to communicate to your child that playing pretend is not your favorite game. It is important for children to learn to take turns choosing games, but this also means that you need to give your child a turn to choose her favorite game. Instead of saying no, go out on a limb for your child and offer to take turns. Offer to play pretend for 10 minutes and then choose another game for 10 minutes.
Enjoy and Appreciate Play
Most parents admit that playing with their children is a bit boring. Of course it is!! We don’t play as our children do because our brain is in a different stage of development than their’s. If you don’t love to play, take heart. Engage your mind during playtime with studying your child instead. How do they form words or sounds? What toys do they choose? How do they play with their toys? How do they want to play with you? How your child moves or speaks and what they play with will chance every couple of months when they are young. Relish, memorize, absorb your precious time together. Their stage and age will be over in the blink of an eye.