Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Play is crucial to all aspects of development...but we, as parents, often interfere with our child's play.
I teach a developmental pediatrics course at a local college. We discuss play in depth. There are so many different types of play - parallel play, cooperative play, symbolic play, associative play...to name a few.
Each type of play is associated with a different stage of development. However, that is not what we are discussing today (but stay tuned for a future post!).
Today is dedicated to how you, YES YOU (and me, too), hijack your child's play.
How many times have you told your child they were playing with a toy incorrectly?
How many times have you intervened in your child's pretend play to say "That could never happen" or "That's not real".
Can you think of a time when you interrupted your child playing because you wanted to show them "the right way" to do something?
Have you immediately stopped your child when they've attempted to mix the play dough together into one colorless, grey blob?
Or when they've preferred to paint with their fingers instead of using the paint brush?
Or when they are pretending their spoon and fork are two people having a very elaborate and detailed conversation? JUST EAT YOUR DINNER ALREADY!
Ok, that last one might be specific to me.
If you have done any of these things, you should hang your head in shame. TOTALLY KIDDING! I have done all of these things.
We do these things because we are trying to avoid a mess or because we are trying to teach our child a skill or about how a toy works.
Yes, Tanya, so what is the down side?
Thank you for asking! When we do those things I mentioned above we take away our child's opportunity to discover something for themselves. We stifle their creativity. When children are allowed to play without adult intervention (unless they are unsafe - then definitely intervene) we give them a chance to problem solve, take turns, use their imagination, discover how things work and think outside the box.
True play should come from a motivation inside of the child to explore the world around them and discover how it works. Another great thing about unstructured, free play is we get to see who our children are, especially when they don't know we are watching. When we observe our child play we hear the funny things they say, the creative way they pretend the remote control is a phone, the way they interact with the world around them.
There are definitely instances where you can work on a certain skill or teach a specific lesson or you NEED to intervene, because sometimes, let's be honest, kids be crazy. But make sure to also let your child play freely and independently.
Don't be a play hijacker.