2011 October 14 – Let your imagination soar

October 14, 2011

Play researchers who are focused on natural play report what we already know:  play is adaptive and beneficial in and of itself.  Often, no additional inputs beyond time, encouragement and imagination are needed.

So what can parents lend to this recipe?  Time.  Space.  Encouragement.  Your own imagination and curiosity about the world.  Imaginative children tend to be correlated with imaginative parents and imagination itself is correlated with several positive social-emotional outcomes.  (Singer and Singer 1990.)

Our focus on parent-child play this month is intended to guide parents into greater attunement with their children to promote social and emotional development.  We don’t intend to demonstrate play as a teaching mode or to to use play as a means to an end – particularly an academic or purely educational one.  We certainly don’t expect parents to be ready to play all the time or as often as their children or even to always be in a playful mood!  We just want to help set the stage, stretch the play muscle, so to speak.

Researchers theorize that parent-child play’s major contribution to positive development is through learning arousal and affect regulation. (MacDonald 1987)  This type of “lesson” is learned through the experience of being immersed in warm, caring and sensitive relationships.

Tanya Byron, author of Back To Basics, The State Of Play Report has this to say about how we can be involved:

“Don’t try to take over. Let the kids lead at playtime. Ask your kids questions about what they’re doing
and provide a running commentary so they’ll know you’re interested. …

A lot of play is parent-­directed because parents can get hooked on the educational value of play.

But that’s a recipe for disaster. Play should be creative and spontaneous. …

For me, it’s all about getting back to the kind of things we did when we were kids and we were bored on a Sunday afternoon. We just made up stories and used our environment to enable us to play.

Playing with a child can be as simple as watching them, doing a running commentary … as they play. If you have a fantastic time ­playing with your kids, it’s uplifting – it’s great to experience what they do and some of what they say is just hilarious.

Playing with our children is just ­really good fun.

We all lead busy lives and it’s about what we prioritise.

But let’s prioritise play because it’s crucial to your child’s development, it’s free, and playing together can only make things more happy and harmonious for you and your family.”

Indeed.  Red rover, red rover, send parents right over!


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