We have found ourselves in interesting times when a lot of our daily routines have been altered with. One of the greatest routines that has been hit a blow is the interaction and play of kids with their peers. This may look like something small but research has shown that when kids do not play and interact with their fellow peers on the playground toxic levels of stress can build up. Kids can easily fall into depression and loneliness.
Playing has much benefit for children in different capacities of their life. Just to do a small recap into some of the benefits that play has for all individuals. Exercising increases the circulation of white blood cells in the body allowing for better immunity and the increase in body temperature makes it difficult for bacteria to live in the body. It also increases the lung capacity and blood circulation to the lungs allowing for ease in breathing and healthier lungs. Play stimulates the neuro-receptors in the mind allowing for learning of both gross and fine motor skills. This helps sharpen the reaction and capability for children to execute various tasks. Play also engages the mind allowing for better blood circulation to the brain and adaptation of personal development skills.
For most children playing is their way of interacting with the world and those who are around them. It is their love language. That’s why they can get so distressed when someone does not play with them. For they see it as if they are being rejected and denied their very self. For all human beings there are three basic needs. They are as follows;
- Affection. Everyone wants to feel that they are loved by someone. That someone cares deeply about them. For many children this need can be met through attention in play. For this provides the positive outlook that someone values them enough to come into their world of play and listen to their stories and do what they like.
- Affirmation. This is the feeling that what they are doing is right or that you approve of them. For children play comes naturally. It is their first instinct. They turn everything into a game, from brushing teeth to seeing who can be the first to finish the plate of ugali and beef stew. When you play with them what they are looking for is your affirmation. Your words of that’s good my child. I am proud of you for what you just did. When we look closely at children playing, we always find areas in which we can celebrate them. For in playing their natural self automatically appears.
- Acceptance. This is the feeling that I belong. That I have people I can call my own. For most children you will find that during play time in school they have a particular group of people they play with, because it creates a bond. The same thing when parents play with children. It reminds them that they belong to the family. It creates the bond that showcases I can be myself around you and I can fail and succeed before your eyes without feeling that I will be chased away.
These bonds are still seen in adults who participate in sports, especially team sports. There is a feeling that someone belongs to a team, a unit of friends and the feeling that they are accepted by their fellow teammates. A feeling of being celebrated as they are congratulated for making the winning shot or blocking the pass. There are many opportunities in play to show children that they are loved, accepted and wanted.
What are some of the benefits that parents and children can experience as they play together? Here is a short list of some of my favourite benefits.
- Natural to kids. Have you been struggling to relate with your child? Does it seem that your teenager is in their own world and there is no way to reach them? Do you at times feel like you just do not connect with your child? Playing and sports is something that comes natural to children. The greatest barrier comes when we as adults feel that we are too grown up to play with our children. When you play with them, you enter their world. It will take some humility to not be in control but just look to enjoy having sometime to with them and getting to see them in their natural element.
- Promotes bonding. Playing allows for both parent and child to have the same experiences at a go. This allows for bonding to take place. This happens as the emotions are associated to the activities that you enjoyed together and not just other daily activities. A child can easily associate their parent in the routines. That dad comes home and sits on the couch and watches TV. To break this kind of cycle a fun activity of play can bring in a new emotional memory. That I really had fun with dad when we played soccer, dad is so much fun. This allows for bonding to take place between the parent and child.
- It’s fun. Playing is fun for everyone. No one is too old to have fun. We all need to have fun. And as you play with your child you will experience great levels of enjoyment and fun. Endorphins are released in your mind allowing for you to have great fun. Perhaps it is said in Africa that parents are not be seen having fun and smiling except at weddings but let us change this norm. Let us take the opportunity to play with children and just have mud fun with them. Yes, I literally mean playing in the mud so that you can have fun with your child. Take the chance, it’s very beneficial.
- Releases stress. Are you stressed about your workplace situation at this moment in time? Are you worried about your financial situation? Why not take some time and play? It has been scientifically proven that worrying overworks the mind and actually hinders its productivity to providing solutions. You will not find solutions by sitting down and thinking about the problems that you are facing. This releases stress hormones that hinder the brain productivity. That’s why stressed people are always feeling tired or feel as if their mind is packed. This slows down productivity. By playing with your child you will be able to release the tension in your mind and increase blood circulation and feel good hormones called endorphins. These will reduce your stress levels, fatigue and congested mind. By allowing your mind to relax you will be able to give it room to actually provide the solutions that you are looking for. Release the stress and tension in the house by taking some time to play.
- Develops skills. Play provides many teachable moments for children to learn skills that they can apply in everyday life. Such skills can be social skills, personal development skills and various life skills. Because of the hands-on approach of play, children are able to learn the skills that are so pertinent to life on a hands-on approach. Play allows for parents to teach and nurture life skills in the lives of children from a practical approach. Such skills like communication, innovation, self-drive can be easily nurtured in an environment of play
Take some time and experience these benefits as you play with your children.
How then do you enter into the life of play with your child without hindering its authenticity and joy?
- Actively observing. The first thing to do is to actively observe. This involves watching your child as they play and have fun, and as you do this looking for moments to congratulate your child on what they are doing or behaviour you see as they play. You can pose a challenge or a game to them and see how they react when they play. Take these moments to show them you love them and affirm them. You can say such things like, “I really like your creative spirit, the way you designed those carton cars, or drew the princesses.” “I am so proud of you for how you kept on trying even when you lost the first time.” “I love your enthusiastic spirit.” Such statements show your child that you were paying attention to them in their place of enjoyment.
- The second thing to do is to take the role of listening. Let your child take the lead in talking when it comes to play. I know for a lot of parents you would like to take charge because you are the mature adult, but let the child take the lead. Let them be the ones who take charge and guide the process. Ask leading questions that allow for them to open up themselves in the process of play. Be keen to also listen to the non-verbal cues, like body posture, attitude and such like things. You will be able to see a lot about your child and learn about their behaviour and attitudes all through play. This shows them that you really care about them and what they have to say. That you are present. The most important thing to a child is knowing that their parent is present.
- Take the opportunity to also support and affirm the positive behaviours and characters that you see in your child. Take the chance to affirm their ideas and suggestions. Don’t be quick to shut them down or overpower them with your intellect and knowledge. Take the time to support their ideas and scenarios. This also provides for the child to be able to take ownership and responsibility for decisions and thoughts. They are able to nurture the self-starter spirit that gives them the opportunity to think and make decisions leading to independence.
- Talking and understanding. Bridge the gap for communication in play by talking to your child and understanding their point of view. When you play with them you will be able to see how they view themselves. What do they think of themselves when they lose? How do they feel when they win? Do they always blame others? Do they blame the equipment? Do they take responsibility? Such qualities and traits can be seen from a young age and as a parent or guardian you can start taking steps towards seeing where does this attitude comes from and what affirms it. It is therefore not a point of accusation but a point of walking together towards providing workable solutions. This therefore means that you will have to be vulnerable as a parent in showing your child that you too have shortcomings. That there are areas you are not perfect in life. Please not those fake stories that parents like to tell that always make them look like some sort of superman or Wonderboy. Just be authentic with your child it shows that you are also human and you understand what it means to fail, to feel low, to have selfish pride and to even be a bully.
- Finally take the opportunity to go out all you can. Do not limit yourself or your child. Challenge both of yourselves by asking around for tips from coaches, teachers and professionals. Create environments that challenge the both of you as you play. Challenge your child’s imagination. Challenge yourself by trying out things you never thought you would like learning how to play FIFA on the PlayStation and understanding the difference between Christiano and Messi. Such things go a long way because they show the effort and children will eventually accept this. Create an environment that challenges and you will reap the benefits.
Here is a link to a video showcasing how you can play with your kids at home and keep them healthy.
For any enquiries or assistance in working with your child through play you can reach out to us through firstname.lastname@example.org or call the number 0707980845. We will be sharing more on creating atmospheres of play and also practical examples of how you can engage in play on our Facebook and YouTube pages Pneumatika Coaching Services.