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As a parent, you’re probably familiar with your child’s playtime. It’s a natural thing for little ones, and it can be inspiring to watch their imaginations at work — so much so, you can even join in and enjoy the same activities. It will not only benefit you, but it’ll benefit everyone involved.
Specifically, the simplicity of playing and the joy of fun activities with your kids can improve your mental well-being, and you’ll enjoy every second of it. You’re never too old, no matter what your aching back might try to tell you!
Let’s take a closer look at some of the cognitive and mental health benefits of playing and having fun with your kids. We’ll also touch on a few activities you and your children can enjoy together, so you’ll both get as much as possible out of your daily play.
Strengthening Your Child
Parents will do anything for their children. So, when you find out something as simple as playing with them can have major benefits, it’s certainly something to celebrate!
Again, children tend to naturally play on their own and use their imagination. They might even enjoy playing with siblings or friends. But, there’s a difference between your child playing with other kids and playing with you. According to UNICEF, children who regularly spend time playing with their parents are less likely to have issues with:
● Sleep problems.
In addition to the mental health benefits, regular parent play can also help your child learn important life skills. They’re likely to be better communicators, more responsible, and better problem-solvers because they can use you as a guide. You’ll set an example for them without even realizing it, and that’s something they can’t pick up from their peers.
You can also take the playtime opportunity to teach your child the importance of staying safe — something they won’t learn from friends and siblings. If you’re playing a sport or spending time outside, you can encourage them to wear protective gear when necessary, stretch their muscles, and avoid sports or playtime injuries. There’s no reason playtime can’t be a time of learning and growing, and your child is more likely to listen and retain safety information when they’re engaged in what they’re doing.
Mental Health Benefits for Parents
Your child isn’t the only one who will experience benefits from playing together. Don’t be afraid to unleash your inner kid, get down to your child’s level, and enjoy playtime. In addition to boosting your mood, you get to enjoy some of the proven benefits including:
● Reduced stress;
● Improved brain function;
● Boosted creativity;
● Improved relationships.
Play can also help heal emotional wounds and make it easier to feel young and energetic. As you grow up, you don’t lose your sense of imagination and your desire to have fun. In other words, your expectations tend to get in the way. While you might not play the same way today as you did when you were a child, don’t hold yourself back from having genuine fun and experiencing the benefits.
When it comes to actually playing with your kids, those benefits get an even bigger boost!
Playing with your children helps to release oxytocin in your brain. This hormone plays a major role in bonding and attachment, but can also help you feel more relaxed. It’s a fantastic way to let go of stress and genuinely feel happier. As an added bonus, you’ll create memories for both you and your little one that will last a lifetime.
What Are the Best Playtime Activities?
There’s no real right or wrong way to engage in playtime activities with your kids. If they tend to gravitate toward certain activities, join them. Show an interest in what they’re doing. Foster curiosity and encourage them to pursue their passions, even if they’re just playing.
Additionally, play an active role in what you do together. Come up with creative, fun ideas that will keep you both engaged. From there you’ll boost your mental well-being. One of the best ways to encourage play is to get outside. Spending time outdoors is another automatic “boost” for your mental health. Outdoor play reduces stress, improves your mood, and can help with symptoms of anxiety.
Try games like hide-and-seek or tossing a ball back and forth. Make mud pies in the dirt to encourage creativity. Go on a nature walk and pretend you’re in an enchanted forest. You might be surprised by the things your child can come up with to turn the everyday “mundane” things into something magical.
You can even play with your child when you’re away from home. Take family trips together and use your imagination to play games in the car, or go exploring within your campsite. You’ll both learn a lot, and have fun doing it.
Of course, you can’t always be in the great outdoors. Thankfully, indoor playtime activities can be just as beneficial and will keep you both happy and busy on a rainy day. If you’re looking for indoor activities, consider things like:
● Art projects;
● Making homemade instruments;
● Cooking and baking;
● Board games;
Occasionally, you can even let your young children use a phone, tablet, or computer and you can join in on the phone. There are countless apps, games, and programs designed to help with learning and engagement. You can help your child understand how to use them and encourage them while they play.
There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of screen time, especially when it’s being used for educational purposes. However, it’s essential to make sure your child knows how to stay safe when they’re online. Teach them about inappropriate content and what they should/shouldn’t be looking at. Make sure they know that screen time isn’t something they should be participating in all the time. You can help them cut back on it by offering other fun activities like books, music, or even small jobs or chores you can reward them for.
How To Play With Your Child
Again, you can’t really go wrong with playtime if you’re enjoying yourself and letting your child use their imagination. However, it’s important to remind yourself not to let playtime become a rigid activity. While structure and routine are good, too much can take away from the natural flow and creativity of free play, unstructured play allows for child-led play.
Allow them to explore and engage with their environment naturally. Be as much of an observer and listener as you are an active participant. The more engaged you are, the more engaged your child will be. Not only will that help them now, but it will teach them how to interact with other people throughout their lives, well into adulthood. It will also teach them how to collaborate effectively without their creativity getting stifled. The skill sets they learn from playing with you are the benefits of play they will need to grow and succeed in life.
Your kids should play as often as possible, and you should encourage them to “mix things up”. Let them play on their own, with classmates and friends, and with siblings. But, don’t be afraid to join in the fun and engage in playtime with your little one frequently. You’ll be amazed by the benefits you see in your children, and you might be surprised to see how much better your mental well-being becomes, too.