Parenting is one of the most significant factors in a child’s growing years. Parents often take on many roles in a child’s everyday life, including being their playmate! While most of us often perceive play as an activity that solely involves the child, it is important to not neglect the role of parents during play.
In the last article, we discussed the physical, cognitive, socio-emotional benefits of Free Play for children. Free Play is often unstructured, child-initiated, and highly dependent on a child’s imagination. How can we as parents help to enhance the effectiveness of Free Play? Let’s take a look at some of the ways to help enhance your child/children’s Free Play experience.
Free Play is versatile and develops according to the environment that a child is in. Something that you can do is to provide or create an environment for your child to engage in Free Play. This way, you can expose them to as many objects, people, and social experiences.
Here are some examples of how you can do so:
Consider the routines in your everyday life. Invite them to join in when you are doing things at home such as baking or even when you are washing the dishes. You will be surprised with their ability to have fun or make a game out of it. These experiences can act as important platforms for them to interact socially and even explore various emotions as well.
Consider allocating time for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) learning. The value of STEAM is that it encompasses a diverse spectrum of knowledge from different disciplines, offering children a rich and stimulating experience. One example that we often like to quote is the Incredible Tank activity that has been our students’ all-time favourite activity. Upon completion of the construction, there are many directions in which Free Play takes place. Some create obstacle courses for the tank using recycled materials, some engage in the creative process of painting, some engage in pretend play, and more. The possibilities are endless! When provided with the right space and resources, a child can actually engage in more meaningful Free Play.
During Free Play, your role is to simply allow the child to take the lead! Sounds easy, doesn't it! Often, we have the tendency to direct the child to perform certain actions in a certain manner that we think is best. The main objective of Free Play, however, is exploration and discovery, so it is important to allow the child to have autonomy in his or her actions.
Apart from allowing your child to take the lead, think of yourself as an important element of their Free play. You can participate from time to time when the child asks you to join in. As parents are part of the child’s social circle, any form of interaction during free play can aid in the child’s social and emotional development.
Furthermore, the process of coming up with a task and completing it on your own builds physical competency, problem-solving skills, and confidence in children’s own ability which is greatly beneficial to a child’s physical and mental well-being.
(3) Responding with words
Lastly, what we say in response to the childs’ actions matters. Words can play an important role in providing children with assurance and help to boost their self-confidence. Instead of a simple “good job”, we can acknowledge their efforts and verbalize them to them. Some examples include “That was challenging but you found a way!” or “You are learning something new!”
We hope that this article has provided you with some insights as to how you can play a role in enhancing your child’s Free Play. As parents, you can play a more active role in your child’s play process than you think. Start by trying something today and share with us how it went!