|Enjoying some parent-friendly baby tunes at the Caspar Babypants concert.|
Today, the trend towards hyper-parenting (re: parents trying too hard) has more Moms and Dads getting hands on with their children. While this increased dedication and attention has developmental benefits for children, but it is important to give consideration as to how we play with our kids. Because, afterall--children learn through play. Parents can be great "players" but they can also be great "interruptors". Try the following tips so you can learn to stay involved without hindering children's play.
- Avoid overcorrection. Despite the airport being right in front of him, Johnny chose to park the plane at the train station. So what? Maybe his trains transported planes today. There is no right or wrong when it comes to unstructured, exploratory play. Resist making corrections. Dwelling on what your child is doing wrong will stifle creativity and could have a negative impact on self-esteem.
- Don't bring your own agenda. You may believe it is of utmost importance that your two-year-old can identify all 26 letters in the alphabet puzzle (news flash: it's not important). When really, all she wants to do is put all the pieces down the front of her shirt. Find toys and activities your child is interested in, and build educational lessons into that.
- Encourage unstructured playtime. Gymboree, Kindermusik, Baby Yoga, or Young Chefs? The opportunities are endless. Try to minimize the time you spend in highly structured activities. When your son decides to spend the whole 30 minutes playing with his feet in the corner rather than singing and dancing to the songs--you are likely to feel disappointed. It is important for children to spend plenty of time in self-directed, unstructured play. At the rapid rate they change and develop, it is impossible to know where their interests may lie on any given day--so leave things more open-ended.
Unstructured learning at its finest: Nicolas explores physics by rolling different objects
- Watch for growth and adjust your role. As children become more competent at playing, they will be more capable of constructing and executing their own agendas for play. They will pick the toys, the pretend scenarios, and the names of their own stuffed animals. Sit back and enjoy watching them become independent thinkers.
For more good reading on the role adults have in play, check out "The Play's the Thing."