In an earlier blog post, I’ve identified the 6 key concepts for engaging in Child-Directed Playtime with your child. Sometimes, though, I find it’s easier to understand something if there’s a concrete example of it, so that’s what I’ve done with this blog post. I’ve made up a play scenario based on my experiences from many years of interacting with children as a play therapist. I’ll show you what it would look like if your child played out this scenario and you were engaging in 15 minutes of Child-Directed Playtime with him.
When children are able to play freely, they will begin to express their feelings and perspectives symbolically through the toys and play materials, and so, by understanding children’s play, adults are able to have a window into a child’s inner world.
Structured imaginary playtime is a parent-directed play strategy where you can structure your child’s playtime according to your child’s needs at the time. It is done within the context of imaginary play where you can communicate ideas, role-model behaviors, and teach skills through the metaphor of play. Children do well with this, since play is often called the language of childhood. Children understand concepts much better through play scenarios rather than through abstract verbal explanations.
When I was working with children as a play therapist, I would often find that children would need some initial direction, structure or prompting to engage in playtime with me. After this initial direction, they would feel more comfortable getting involved in the play and would begin to use their creative ideas and imaginations.
Some parents worry that they don’t spend enough time playing with their children and feel guilty if they are not spending extended periods of time playing together. Well, the good news is, short but frequent playtimes can be almost as beneficial as one longer playtime. And when I say short playtimes, I mean anything lasting 5 minutes or less! I call these short playtimes “Mini Playtimes” and they can be child-directed or parent-directed.