You are your child's first and favourite playmate. Whether you copy each other's funny faces, play pat-a-cake or build a tower to the stars, when you play with your child you not only support her ability to learn, think, problem solve and explore but also strengthen your relationship with her. As young children begin to test limits and assert their independence, more of the time they spend with their parents involves discipline, limit setting and disagreements. That's why it's important to set aside time to play together, laugh, enjoy each other's company, abandon limits and expectations and create positive fun moments with your child. Here are a few ideas that have the potential to bring out the best in your child, and your relationship, as you play together:
- Let your child take the lead in play. Although it's not always easy, try to resist the temptation to take over your child's play and make it "better." It is important to your child's self-esteem and independence that she is the one calling the shots. So take a backseat and let your child tell you how she wants you to contribute to the play. Imitating your child's actions, such as building the same sort of castle as hers, is also a good way to participate. It tells her that you think her ideas are so good that you want to copy them.
- When you play with your child, bring yourself down to his level. If he's playing on the floor, then that's where you should be too. If he wants to dress up as a dragon or get himself gooey with finger paints, play along. Let him see that you are willing to be right there with him and do what is important to him, which sends him the message that he is important to you.
- Have fun! That's what play is all about - exploring, discovering, laughing and sharing experiences with your child. When you can see the world through the eyes of a child, you'll want to stay there for as long as you can.