Habitot Children's Museum

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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111
www.habitot.org

Parenting Q&A
Parenting Question of the Month How much should parents play with their children – or should parents let children play on their own? What does it really mean to “play with your child”?

Research shows that when we give children our full attention and actually participate in their play, we do something significant that doesn't happen while shuttling kids around or letting them play with toys while we work on the computer or prepare dinner. Playing together builds trust and emotional connection. Children become more secure and self-confident. Parents who spend time in child-initiated play, report that their children become more responsive, more relaxed, less clingy and, surprisingly, more open to playing by themselves. And as an added bonus, children who play with parents are enriched with ideas, language, vocabulary and other measures of kindergarten readiness.

So it's important to find the time - even ten minutes a day - to be with your child in child-initiated play.

What does “child-initiated” play look like and what does a parent actually do?

    • When you play with your child, you can start by asking what toys your child would like to play with (the best choices are open-ended toys like blocks, trains, dolls/stuffed animals, and play sets like farms or car washes that allow for make-believe). Other activities like exploring outdoors together, reading together, playing a game are also great as long as your child gets to choose.
    • Get down on the floor in her “air space.” Her vantage point on life is much different than yours and being there puts you on more equal footing with your child in play.
    • Observe and listen carefully and try to follow his lead. This is not always easy, and may even feel a little boring to you, but your child will love it. You can always repeat what the child says is happening: "Oh, so the dragon is going into the forest!"
    • Try very hard not to control or direct the play so much that you stifle creativity, freedom and joy. You can try adding new elements saying, “what if we used this, or added that?” but if your child says, “no” let it go.
It’s been said that happy, healthy preschoolers laugh an average of three hundred times a day. Let’s take their cue, get down on the floor, and laugh with them.
Parenting Resources

Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. Playful Parenting. Random House: New York, 2001.

Hand in Hand Parenting. (2010) Hand in Hand Parenting Web Site: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/

Special Time: the best advice you'll ever get (2009) Bringing Up Kids Web Site: http://www.bringingupkids.com/blog/special-time-the-best-advice-youll-ever-get.html

Play with children (2008) Children, Youth and Women's Health Service - Parenting and Child Health Web Site: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=114&np=122&id=1943#6

 
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