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Quality Time: Making The Most Of One-On-One Time Playtime With Your Child

Parent/child playtime is more than fun

It plays an important role in your child’s development! Remember, you are your child’s very first playmate, and that’s a highly important job.

The playtime you spend with your child will help her grow in many ways. Enjoyable one-on-one time helps build strong bonds of love and trust. It makes a child feel valued and worthy, building self-esteem.

In addition, playtime boosts brainpower. While you’re busy playing, kids are developing language skills, problem-solving strategies, and creativity. They’re learning essential social skills, like cooperation, taking turns, and sharing.

According to child development experts, the way we play with our children can make a difference in their early learning experiences. Here are some tips for getting the most from your quality time together:

    • Find some time in your busy day—even if it’s just 20 minutes after dinner—to focus solely on having fun with your child. (Bonus: your child isn’t the only one who benefits here. It’s a terrific stress-reducer!)
    • Allow your child to take the lead; don’t dominate the direction playtime will take. This signals to your child that his opinions are important. During open-ended play time, don’t criticize, micromanage, or even say “let’s do it this way” (this is harder than it sounds!).
    • Get down to your child’s level, literally. Sit cross-legged on the floor or lay on your stomach. If you tower above your child, you’re sending the message that you’re still in control.
    • Praise your child’s activities, especially when she attempts something new. You’ll instill self-confidence, as well as a lifelong willingness to try new things.
    • Don’t try to get a conversation going by peppering your child with questions. (That’s a good way to get kids to shut down.) Instead, try…

Providing a play-by-play of what you’re child is doing (“You’re driving the red car down the street—now you’re making a turn’). This demonstrates your interest and keeps your child focused.

Echo what your child says to you. (If your child says, “I’m dressing my doll,” you might respond with “You’re dressing your doll in a purple dress.”) According to experts, this keeps your child in the lead and actually generates more conversation.

Just have fun. Not every play session has to end with a lesson. Release your own goofy, giggling inner child. Your child will take away the idea that a little healthy downtime—something many of us are deficient in—is a wonderful thing. And it is!

Things to Do

While you can have fun doing almost anything, these activities lend themselves well to one-on-one playtime.

  • Activities that inspire imaginative play. When your child hears you making up adventures or creating doll dialogue, it shows him how to tap into his own creativity.
  • Read together. A love of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
  • Engage in cooperative play. Put together a puzzle or build a block castle together. The give-and-take of these activities teaches sharing and cooperation.
  • Play board games. It helps kids learn about taking turns and good sportsmanship.
  • Indulge in role play—but reverse your roles! You be the child; let your child be the adult. It will give your child a sense of power. It will also give both of you insight regarding your respective points of view.

If you’re like most parents, your days are already pretty packed. One way to squeeze more one-on-one time into your day is to turn “everyday” time into playtime. For example, when you’re in the car running errands, play travel games you’d ordinarily reserve for road trips. Instead of simply supervising your child’s bath, grab a bath toy and launch an imaginary adventure.

So dance with your baby, sing with your toddler, play hide-and-seek with your child. While you’re having fun together, you’re also helping your child grow—and building a bond that will last a lifetime.

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