Playful parenting is a parenting style that encourages parents to play with their children. This means that one engages with their child in a more joyful and creative interaction. This form of parenting is encouraged in order for parents to foster close bonds with their children.
It is quite tempting to allow children to play independently. But there are amazing benefits to playing with your child. Play is a powerful tool children use to navigate the world and learn. We can also use that same tool to see the world through their eyes and learn as they do.
Lawrence J. Cohen is a Play Therapist and he published a book in 2001 titled Playful Parenting. It opened a different realm of parenting for a lot of parents and empowered them on how best to connect with their children.
So, how does playful parenting help us parents build successful children?
Raise confident children
Like adults, children also face challenges of confidence and self-esteem. Playful parenting can help children overcome this challenge. By simply allowing children to win, can instill a sense of self-esteem. It’s not only about winning, but them simply engaging in play with a person that is older than them. That alone helps them develop confidence and self-esteem.
Express and understand complex emotions
According to the Lego Foundation “pretend play between a parent and a child is an ideal space to discuss feelings and practice reasoning”. Children cannot understand emotions and therefore struggle to express them. Therefore, playing with your child will help him express themselves better than they would under normal circumstances.
Breakthrough shyness, anger, and fear
Children that play with their parents are happy and they laugh, and laughing is always the best medicine. It can, therefore, help children release anger, anxiety and any other painful emotion. Even in our adult lives, we still use laughter to aid us in navigating awkward and extremely painful situations. Children can learn the same.
Playful parenting can foster respect
Children respect adults because they are told to, and they are older than them. They particularly respect adults that crawl on the floor with them and get dirty. So playful parenting fosters a culture of respect for their parents. Children that respect their parents are better equipped to do well in different aspects of their lives.
Children feel safe and wanted
Spending playful time with our children is a way of communicating to them that we enjoy spending time with them. This makes children feel wanted and loved. This is also a wonderful way of helping kids have confidence. A child that knows they are secure in their love with their parents can take on anything. Feeling wanted is not only a feeling adults yearn for. Children also want to be chased around the yard and be pursued. This makes them feel safe and wanted.
Raising kind and thoughtful adults
Lawrence J. Cohen emphasizes that we need to fill our children’s cups with affection, security, and love. We cannot do this by standing on the sidelines and managing our children during playtime. If your child’s cup is overflowing, they are less likely to have behavioral issues. The love and affection children get from the person they look up to (mom or dad) plays a role in them becoming thoughtful and kind adults.
Helps with connection and re-connection
What is the best way to connect with your child than to descend to their level and see the world the way they do? This means that you are genuinely and purposefully engaging in their world and learning about their world. This creates strong bonds between children and parents. This helps children develop their emotional and social skills. A healthy relationship with your parents forms an important foundation for children. According to an article published in Parenting NI, this relationship lays the foundation of the child’s personality, life choices, and their overall behavior.
Empower themselves and respect diversity
Playful parenting helps children make sense of the world with the guide of their parents. This can help empower children. This happens through creative and imaginative play. Even more so when they can do this with their parents.
Fosters important cognitive skills
Children can learn cause-and-effect by playing with their parents, and this is an important cognitive skill for children to learn. Children can learn what certain musical instruments can do, or certain toys, by observing their parents play with them. This builds their cognition, and this can happen very early on in their lives if their parents participate in playtime.
Learning social skills
The Lego Foundation notes that mutual exchanges and interactions during playtime between children and parents help children build neural connections. This helps with developing strong communication and social skills very early on in their lives. This means that children will be able to pick up on different social cues, and can use this even in their adult lives.
The world is a busy place, and our lives are even busier, but we can all make time for what is important to us. Playful parenting does not necessarily mean you must quit your job to play with your child all day long, but it is about being cognizant of their need for your attention, and being able to reciprocate now and again.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.