You may have taken one look at this title and rolled your eyes thinking, “Now what? I’m not even supposed to play with my own kids?!” or you may have smiled and thought to yourself, “finally!”
Every family has a different parenting technique and Imagine Toys is not judging you. Many psychologists and writers feel very strongly about this topic and today we will lay out all the big arguments so that you can choose the one that best fits the opinions you already have.
Depending on your age, you probably don’t remember your parents playing with you much when you were a kid. It is a relatively recent development that parents started playing with their kids, and it is mostly restricted to middle class Americans.
What we mean by playing with kids is actually getting on the ground and interacting with rough housing, playing at the park, participating in puppet shows, and other interactive sorts of play. Reading, rocking, playing cards or board games and other less ‘active’ activities.
The rise of parent/child play has occurred due to several changes regarding kids in the US. Near the beginning of the 20th century, children started to have more time when they weren’t working on the family farm which gave them time to play. In recent decades, a focus on learning at a young age grew due to the pressure of the information-age economy, according to an article in the Boston Globe, Leave Those Kids Alone.
The book Bringing Up Bébé famously brought French child-rearing into the American consciousness, including the notion of letting children play alone while the parents visited, worked, or drank coffee.
The Case for Playing with Kids
Many modern psychologists are touting parents playing with their children as the best way to raise a smart, healthy, well-adjusted kid. As children play they learn all sorts of skill sets ranging from the physical to developmental. Physical play increases fitness and can impact on later ability to focus. Interactive play helps kids learn vocabulary, social skills, hand-eye coordination, and to navigate difficult situations.
Playing with other kids is also great for kids, but as many parents know, other children are not always easily accessible. Siblings may be non-existent or uninterested in playing with each other. Some studies show that parents offer more benefits than friend play can. Parents and children bond through play, and parents can influence a child’s imagination, impact their personality, and enrich their environments.
The Case against Playing with Kids
Many parents know that playing is not the only way that they can interact with children and feel happier and calmer interacting through cooking together, reading, cuddling, and other ways. Not playing with kids allows kids to be more independent, not reliant on adults for entertainment. There have been many studies proving the benefits of unstructured play. Children spend large amounts of time in situations where they have no control over what happens, school, soccer practice, piano lessons, figure skating, and more. If they are unable to have time for unstructured play gives kids a time to relax, flex their imagination muscles, and navigate lightly unfamiliar situations on their own.
If you ask parents if they enjoy playing with their kids, many say yes. But many studies show that when parents are asked if they are enjoying playing with their kids while playing, they do not enjoy it nearly as much as they say they do. Playing with kids is frustrating and boring. They often have rules that only they understand and you get yelled at for doing it wrong. They expect you to chase them, dance with them, run with them, and do many, many exhausting activities over and over and over. When you try to stop you get tears and whining. It’s no wonder some parents don’t enjoy play with their kids.
If you are unsure where you stand between the pro-play or anti-play crowds, you may find the middle road to be more palatable. Parents know that no matter what they do, they will feel guilty, so you might as well split the difference. Help your kids with independent play by giving them access to other kids their age, giving them enough time to enjoy play, and letting at least some play be unstructured. This will benefit you as well, when you aren’t forced to be your child’s main source of entertainment, you might enjoy playing with her more.