Childhood is a time when you can have as much fun as you want and it is an essential time for brain development too. Kids learn while playing different games but what if your child could play meaningfully to make learning even more fun?
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
To help you and your child understand the key points of meaningful play, here are the 5 main characteristics of it. Meaningful play should:
- Give a child the choice of things they are interested in doing.
- Be fun and enjoyable.
- Be engaging and evolve as the child plays.
- Be dictated by a child's motivation/interest to play and do what they want.
- Have an encouraging and risk-free environment for kids to experiment.
As you can deduce from these 5 points when your child’s playing meaningfully they are active participants. They are not there just to follow a set of predefined rules and do as the leader says. Children take charge of their own fun and learning as they play and create rules and steps that enhance their development.
Even when there are rules to games, your child can still learn to customize them and learn while they do so. At first, you might want to help them navigate through this type of playtime but as time goes you will see they can do it themselves. This will enhance their leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, and many more benefits.
What skills can children learn from playtime?
1. Time management
People drive on routines; the repetitive nature of habits helps create a sense of security from any unknown tasks, results, and circumstances. Routines also instill discipline and time management in children’s minds from a young age. And when they know each activity has been assigned a specific time, they can focus on one task at a time.
During a section of time (whether it’s playtime or study time) your kids will be responsible for their own time. But how can you do it? You can use your alarm clock or get your kids their own little alarm clock and make an easy timetable for them. Help them use the alarm clock to know when their playtime starts when it ends, and everything that happens in between.
As they set their own time, your kids will be happy to end their games at the fixed time and you will see a decrease in their outbursts over time. Once they get used to this, you can teach them how to use the alarm clock to monitor their other daily activities. It will help them wake up on time, have timely meals, and follow a schedule for studying as well.
And in time the kids will learn to manage their time even without a clock. Isn’t it an interesting benefit of kid’s playtime?
Our life is a series of decisions one after the other. From waking up to sleeping, education to jobs, and life partners, we are constantly deciding what to do next. Decision-making is another skill that can be learned through kid’s playtime.
While kids play there are a lot of decisions to be made, either by them and their peers or the set rules of the game. If you start having meaningful playtime with kids they will have to decide their own rules, timing, and elevate their motivation. Simple steps can help your kids learn big life lessons while they are enjoying themselves.
Every decision comes with consequences and practice makes you a visionary.
Although your child can learn while playing you can still impart your knowledge to them. You can add to their playtime and help them learn better with these steps:
- To help your child learn decision-making, make them choose between different games, different toys, different foods, and everything else. Soon after the child gets used to making smaller decisions for themselves they will know their consequences too.
- Decision-making at a smaller scale will also help your child think better, process their feelings, and make better decisions. Stimulate your kid’s brain with maze worksheets, sorting activities, and low supervision activities kids can do themselves. It’ll help them make decisions and see fruitful outcomes.
Your love for your kids is immeasurable. Every parent expresses their love differently, some buy their child gifts, some strive to spend time with their kids constantly, and some parents like to help their child with their chores. While you show your child affection, you also assure that you’ll be there for them. But sometimes, this expression of love backfires.
You clean up after your child so often and do their work for them, when you don’t your child can’t do it on their own. After all, they are so used to you doing their cleaning that they don’t bother to learn daily skills. They don’t feel responsible for their actions and do not learn how to extend a hand for help.
It’s great that you are there for your kids whenever they need but you have to let them feel accountable for their acts too. A mindful playtime should allow children to have fun while they learn the big life lessons at the same time. Here is how you can help your children:
- To teach your kids responsibility while playing, you need to ask them to set up their toys themselves. Teach them how to prepare for their playtime and let them do it themselves.
- When your kid’s playtime is over, help them clean up after themselves. Once you show them, encourage them to do it themselves. This basic act of setting their own play area and organizing everything later will teach them to be responsible for their toys and time.
- You can take a step ahead and teach them more. Help them pack their school bag themselves, setting the dining table, and leaving their cups in the kitchen. To make your kid’s playtime clutter-free and creative, introduce fun arts and crafts to your kids.
Tip: For activities that require organizing you can prepare a checklist for your kids. For example, to prepare for your kid’s playtime, you can hand them a list of things to take out and put back together. Or you can hand them a checklist of things to pack in their school bag. This way they won’t miss a thing!
From the point above it is clear that kids learn to be responsible when they are taught how to handle themselves. Just like that, playing can also teach kids to be independent. With a heightened sense of responsibility comes independence to do things independently.
Once you’ve helped your kid pack their school bag, organize their things, and manage their time, it’s time to let them do it on their own.
Insight: One thing to note is you don’t want your kids to do everything on their own. Yes, they should know how to be responsible for their things but they are just kids. You should always be by their side to supervise and guide them.
As your children play with other kids, they also learn many other things. It may look like they are just having fun but they are learning to talk to other kids, decide a game to play, decide their turns, and be good-spirited.
Children learn all this on their own and of course, with a little help from their friends. You can encourage your kids to be independent and make kid’s mindful playtime funwith these two tips:
- Let your children do their own tasks. You can supervise them while they pack their school bag for the day, make their bed every morning, and even check their lunch as you pack it! Make sure you supervise them while they are at it.
- Make them look forward to a task you’d want them to do. Encourage them by making their tasks interesting and exciting so they would want to do them out of their own will. If you want your kid to pack their own bag, buy them a bag of their choice, something they’d be excited about. If you want them to make their own bed, make their bedding cute, or encourage them with a reward.
Kid’s playtime also teaches your little ones one of the most important life lessons, socializing. It is important for kids to learn the right way to talk to other kids and adults to form fun and meaningful bonds.
When your children play with other kids, they learn to think, talk, and negotiate with them. They share their toys, they talk about what they are playing, and they develop a bond with their friends, that’s why they get upset when their partners aren’t present.
You can help your kids more about making meaningful bonds with people. Start with telling your kids the difference between good and bad behavior. Help them make friends who are kind and considerate.
Similarly, teach your kids to be kind too. Find actionable steps to teach your kids about kindness over time in this guide.
Just as you, and all the people, engage with many people daily, your kids do too. Start by helping your kids by setting an example. Talk to them with kindness and help them see what kind of behavior you want them to cultivate. Here are 3 simple steps you can follow:
- Use wishes like good morning, good afternoon, and good night. Whenever you come back home or leave, greet your kids.
- Use the golden words, sorry, please, and thank you. This will encourage the kids to use them as well.
- When your child feels overwhelmed or needs to release pent-up emotions, calm them with a few deep breaths first. Teach them to talk out their emotions and channel their feelings.
Talking to other people and listening to them gives people perspective. During kid’s playtime, other kids share their toys, joys, and experiences with them, which helps them get an idea of the world beyond their family.
You can help your child analyze other people’s emotions with expression cards, by observing you, and other people too. This will help your child gain perspective on other people’s feelings.
Have you ever noticed any child offering their food to someone else? Or letting their friend play before them? This often means that the child is keeping them in the other person’s shoes.
They are exploring other perspectives and understanding how their behavior affects others. This helps your kid even in the long run as they can understand the consequences and effects of their actions.
Gaining perspective makes it easier for kids to be kinder, cooperative, and team players. They’ll develop healthy relationships with other people and be thoughtful adults. To help your child have an open mind and gain perspective, here are some things you can do:
- While your child is playing with someone else and the other person shows intense emotions, ask your child to identify their emotions. When they do, ask them to find a reason for their feelings and what your child observed.
- When your child does something mean or hurtful, ask them how it would feel if someone did the same to them? Help the child empathize with others and explain to them what they should and should not do.
- Encourage your child to read different books and talk about the character’s feelings. Link their actions to their behaviors and explain that to your child. Talk about how, why, and what the child is feeling.
- The best way to help your child gain some perspective is to model it for them. Sit with your children and express how you feel, even if you are experiencing a negative emotion. This will help children normalize everyone’s emotions and learn how to channel them.
Within the very first few minutes of trying something new or meeting new people, many people experience a spike in their anxiety. Everyone feels uncomfortable when they are struggling, some more than others, and for children, almost everything is new.
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”–Albert Einstein
When kids experience new games, new situations, and meet new friends they may feel this same nervousness. They might feel like they are struggling to do the easiest of tasks because their environment is new.
This initial struggle might influence them to give up on the task at hand or even encountering anything new again. Similarly, in the case of a life goal they set, children see the struggle as their inability and lack of potential.
Children need to learn the importance of perseverance. Resilience, strength, and ambition, are better parameters of success than just intelligence. To complete a task, even when you’ve failed, is an achievement in itself and it’s okay even if you reach there struggling.
Meaningful playtime can help children learn diligence and perseverance. Just like they don’t give up their desire to play or are adamant about playing with their best friend, you need to teach them to extend the scope of this emotion. Here are 3 ways you can do that:
- Do not attach your child’s importance to their success. Encourage them to try their best no matter what the result will be. After all, failure is another chance of learning.
- Encourage your child to find solutions to their problems instead of leaving it to you or just giving up. It is natural for parents to run to kids when they are struggling, but wait and let them come up with something. Let children experience failures and struggles on their own. Be the motivating force behind them, but let them do the hard work themselves. With this approach, they’ll learn determination, patience, and resilience.
- Share your struggles and how you tackle them. Lead by example.
Now you know interaction is an important part of playing. Your child talks, plays, laughs, fights, and gets upset with their friends, and learns language, listening, and negotiation. Even if your child is playing alone, they are constantly thinking and narrating what they are doing.
While talking to others, children make plans, organize them, and talk to each other constantly. Parents also know that many times playtime includes kids fighting and crying, but at the same time, they also talk through it.
Even if your child is navigating through communicating with their pals themselves, you need to guide them too. Guided play with children is a good option to help them develop their communication skills, language, and critical thinking. They will learn how to talk to their peers, negotiate with them, and understand their feelings just as they want theirs to be understood.
- To help your child with guided play, introduce them to a diverse vocabulary. Teach them words they might not know otherwise that will help them express their feelings. For example, show them how to use words like disappointed, grateful, upset, compromise, etc.
- Encourage your kids to read books. Set a routine with them and read together so they can ask you why a character feels that way or just talk to you. It’ll enhance their thinking and vocabulary at the same time.
- If your kid is young, practice words and alphabets with literacy games for children. It'll enhance their speech and tickle their brain.
9. Cognitive and motor skills
As your child grows older, they intake a lot of information. They spend time with family, school, and their friends and they hear a lot of things that they need to make sense of. Their brain needs to be developed to soak all this information and respond to it, here is when critical thinking comes into play.
When a child can think critically, they can easily handle all this information they encounter daily. They can understand the context of things and then apply this information to talk, play, and bond.
But this is not all, playing with different people also teaches kids about perspective, patience, and a lot more. Moreover, the games and toys kids play with also make way for a mindful kid’s playtime and kids learn through playing.
Your child may be more inclined towards indoor or outdoor games, ranging from physical games to brain teasers. Both these types of games do not just stimulate your child’s brain, they stimulate their motor skills, muscle development, and energy as well.
When there is so much your kids learn from playtime, you need to make sure you help them. Here are a few ways you can help your child develop their cognitive and motor skills:
- Incorporate a variety of games into your child’s playtime. Maintain a balance between simple activities like coloring pages, and a variety of outdoor activities. It will help your child’s all-round development and games will make this development fun.
- Include brain teasers into your child’s gaming sessions regularly. It will help your child stimulate their brain, allowing them to think critically, and enhance their judgment. The brain teasers can be simple maze worksheets or math worksheets.
- Another way to help your child’s cognitive and motor skills is introducing kids to fun art and crafts, especially fun STEAM activities.
- Add different shapes and toys to your kid’s playtime. Toys of different shapes like cubes, spheres and cones will help your child’s perception and shape recognition. While other toys like legos and building blocks will help their motor skills and thinking ability.
- Encourage your kids to participate in every activity to develop their interests, hobbies, and character. Inspire them to try indoor and outdoor activities and as they go, teach them about both of them.
Children undergo 60% of their brain development by the age of six or seven. This means, most of their personality and basic virtues have been ingrained in their brains.
But no matter how much their brain develops, they are kids and will be more interested in playing instead of lessons. Why not use these actionable tips to help your child have a maningful playtime!
Hope this article helped you to learn new things and understand how to help your children learn while playing. Use these tips, share them, and help your loved ones too.
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