By: Nicole Leuci Gilmer
As parents, we want to give our children every opportunity to succeed in life. We research and enroll them in the best schools, activities, and programs available. But what if we’re overcomplicating what makes a child “successful”? What if we are forgetting the simple, yet crucial, aspects of childhood that ultimately develop who a person becomes? What if the key to a child’s success can be as simple as dedicated playtime with those they love?
Recent research has shown that dedicated playtime is essential for healthy familial relationships. Through play, family members of all ages can learn about each other and grow together. Purposeful play within a family has been proven to help children develop healthy social skills, conflict-resolution, and trust. Furthermore, numerous studies have proven that play not only strengthens bonds within a family, but also improves dopamine and serotonin levels in both the adults and the youth members of the family.
In fostering positive development through activities that interest all members of the unit, like board games, puzzles or maybe an outdoor activity, such as hiking, families foster an atmosphere of connection that builds and nurtures strong relationships that hopefully last a lifetime.
No matter what activity you choose, play helps keep families connected and strengthens relationships in a special way. Not only does playing together provide entertainment, but also to reenforce and foster important values—like understanding, respect, compassion, and the importance of quality time—that last well beyond childhood.
Tips for incorporating play
Playing and bonding with your family is the cornerstone of a strong, healthy parent-child relationship. Do you have fond memories of kicking around a soccer ball or climbing trees with your siblings? Or maybe it was board games over Friday night dinner, sharing funny stories and laughing with your parents until your stomach hurt? Today, with packed full schedules and the constant pressure and comparison of yourself to those picture-perfect families on social media, it may feel like there is never enough time for dedicated play with your children. Here are a few ideas on how you can easily incorporate more play into your family!
– Engage in imaginative play – switch roles with your child and have them clean and parent while you play and act silly. Younger children tend to find this role-playing activity entertaining, while also fostering an understanding and appreciation for all the adults in their lives do. Work still gets done, your child learns important life skills and you get to bond with your kiddo- win, win, win!
– Did you know studies have shown has little as 12 minutes of dedicated play time with your child can increase both your and their serotonin (happiness) levels and lower cortisol (stress) levels? You don’t need to plan out a whole day packed full of activities and locations for the play to be impactful- just set aside a dedicated chunk of time that you are there for your child in the playful ways they need!
-Engage in loose-parts play with your child(ren). As you go about your normal week, collect random objects that are meant to be trash and keep them in a box. Anything goes for this game. Sand from an old fish tank, empty toilet paper rolls, and leaves that got tracked into the house. At the end of the week, dump the box and challenge the kids to build something with the objects. You will see their imagination soar as they learn to solve complex problems. Plus, it gives you some creative time as well!
– Finally, always have a set of blocks around. They can be Imagination Playground Blue Blocks are just lot of empty tissue boxes. Build often, incorporating block play into your everyday life. When making dinner, ask your child to build their own oven and problem solve a door, or doing fall cleanup have them make a tree. Building with blocks fosters some of the highest forms of thinking and problem solving and will enrich your child’s learning experience.
Whether you are simply laughing together, learning something new or working on problem solving skills; playful time spent together helps create healthy, lifelong family bonds.
No matter how busy and hectic life gets, playing together is a great way to foster warm familial relationships and create unforgettable memories. Play time should be considered a necessity in everyone’s lives- not a luxury. In short, play is a powerful tool for building strong families and helping children develop into compassionate, responsible members of society as they grow.
However, it is also important to remember that not all families and children have access to the resources necessary to make play a regular part of their lives. If you’re able, consider donating time or resources to organizations that provide play opportunities to all children. When we come together to support everyone’s right to play, we help ensure that all children can reach their full potential – and maybe even grow up to be well-adjusted adults who enjoy spending quality time with their own families playing.
Whether your family loves to gather around a game of Chutes and Ladders, or go biking together, family play time can be more impactful than most parents and caregivers realize. What are your favorite ways to bond with your family through play?