After working with children and parents for many years as a child and play therapist, I developed guidelines for parents on ways they could play with their children at home in order to support their children’s healthy development as well as to strengthen the parent-child relationship. In these guidelines, I have identified nine parent “skills” to use during parent-child playtime. This article will give you some general ideas of how the skills I have identified for playtime can be generalized and used in everyday situations outside of playtime.
Parents may wonder if they should get involved in their children’s imaginary play. This is a great question, because children definitely need time and space on their own to use their imaginations to develop stories and ideas in playtime. However, parents can, and should, become involved in their children’s imaginary play at times because this is an excellent way to strengthen the parent-child relationship.
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.