Children learn through play – that’s a well-established fact. Studies done over the least few years point to the link between physical activity and better learning, and with that, a host of other benefits, such as enhanced memory, better socialization skills, improved motor skills, and lower risks of lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease that often result from obesity.
How, then, can we parents provide opportunities for play? Renowned Swiss psychologist and child specialist Jean Piaget suggests the following:
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1. Let your child be the player-leader. Let children initiate their activity, set their own theme, choose the parameters where play will take place, and well, play. Play becomes a venue for children to express their feelings and be in control.
2. Help them help themselves. When your 5-year-old asks for help, say, figuring out how to piece together a puzzle, stop yourself from coming to her rescue and first ask your child questions that allow her to help herself. Say, “Where do you think this piece should go? There’s something about its color…” Afterward, commend her success.
3. Pay attention! Once you make a commitment to play with your child, watch for the following signals: - Does she want you to actively play a part in the activity? - Does she need encouragement? - Is she tired or hungry? Does she need to take a break?
4. Have a play plan. If you only have little time for playing with your child, consider doing chores together instead. Let her get into water play during bath time. Also, get support from other people in your home like household help, older siblings, or the child’s grandparents, so that they understand why play is important and how they should continue to encourage play.