Our parents had it so easy when it was play time! All they had to do was send us outside and say, “Be back by dinner!” We would go outside, and we would play, and we would make ramps in the streets, and we would climb trees and generally we would come home okay! But our world has changed! We live in a different generation and our children are living in a different world than that one we grew up with. They’re surrounded on every side by technology and digital media and pressures that we never had to deal with.
Sure, there are many technological breakthroughs and digital advances that benefit our children and will be benefits for them in their lifetimes, but how do we find balance? How do we help our children grow up well-rounded with many opportunities and with the strong cognitive skills that you learn through play? We have five different ways to take your family back to the days of varied play and help your children grow and develop in balanced ways all through their lives.
Plan playtime into your day
In this fast-paced world we live in it’s very easy to get caught up in running to co-op and running to the music lesson and heading home and sitting down and getting school work done and so on and so forth! Sometimes, you’re going to have to plan a visit to the park or playtime in the yard into your schedule. It may even be that you need to put down, “Go outside and play for half an hour.” on your child’s agenda for the day! Playtime is essential to growth for a child. It’s their time to go out and make mistakes and practice what they’re learning as they grow. Planning that time into your day will help your child, and you, make sure that they are getting the time they need to get out and move, jump, run, and experiment.
Alternate the types of play available to your child
Research shows us that a child’s brain needs to be challenged and exercised in more than just one way. Sending a child out to play on a playset, and having them go down the slide 15 times in one afternoon, is not going to give them what they need, if that’s the only thing that they get to do to play. Likewise, sitting down and building with a set of blocks day in and day out isn’t going to challenge them. Children need a variety of play in their diet. Just like we’re encouraged to eat the colors of the rainbow and make sure our diets are varied, as children grow they need to be playing the rainbow. One day they need to be building, the next day they need to be pretending, and the following day they need to be running and jumping.
So, as a parent, our job is simple. We need to make sure that they have access to a variety of different play things. As we’re planning play into our day, we can plan a day at the park and then the next day we can plan to have Lego time. We can even alternate the toys that are available to our children. Put away two-thirds of their toys and only have one-third of them available. Two weeks later, switch them out and make sure that they have something interesting available to them most of the time.
Give your child options in their playtime
We’ve all had moments where the child has come into the room during their play time and they say the classic sentence, ” I’m bored!” What is a parent to do with that moment? Is it our job to stand up and give them something interesting, or is it our job just simply let them know what’s available in our home? The best option for us has been to simply give three options: “You may do this, you may do that, or you may do this thing.” When you give a child options, it gives them back some of the power in their lives. The child is able to say, “This is what I choose.” Then they are responsible for entertaining themselves.
Set play goals for the week for your child
We’ve talked about making sure play is something that is planned into your life, we’ve talked about alternating the types of play available to a child, and making sure that they have the option to choose what they would like to do. How do you make it all work to make playtime an important part of your family’s life? The best thing for a family is to simply set goals for playtime. Work with your child and let them help you come up with goals to meet. For example, if you know your family is struggling with making sure your children have enough play time outside, set a goal for the next week. You can even create something like the “fundraiser thermometer” and put it on your fridge so that they can see how much play they’re getting. Set your family goal for 3 hours outside over the next week and also set a reward your children are able to earn for meeting their goal. Over the next week, make sure they are responsible for filling out their chart and meeting their play goals.
Set family ground rules for device time
And now for the elephant in the room! How do we as a generation of parents raised without devices begin to set levels of appropriate device use for our children? How do we live with our family rules, and how do we make sure we’re not just relying on that device for quiet time? Well, first of all, when a child is exposed to a variety of play times and given the play diet that is essential for their cognitive development, they are not going to live addicted to their device. They will be having their cognitive needs met in other ways, and while the device might be something they enjoy, it will not be something that dictates your life or theirs.
In our family, we have found that the best way to limit and create appropriate levels of use for our family’s devices has been to simply have some ground rules that are in effect all the time. In our home, our ground rules include having your school work finished, your chores finished, and a time of day that they are not allowed to use their device before. We came to the point of setting the ground rules after relocating and dealing with the device monster invading our home. Our children were not receiving the types of very play that they should have been because of the situation our family was in, and it took several months to get the problem under control. We’ve now found that having ground rules has erased much of the contention that we dealt with when devices were ruling our home. Our children are also happier and you can tell that they’re getting what they need to grow because they are more active and they’re playing in a different, healthy ways!
This post is a sponsored post by The Genius of Play.
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