Enhancing the Parent-Child Relationship Through Play by Dennette Hall

While independent play at all developmental levels is important, research shows that play with parents and caregivers is equally as vital. Play is a children’s way to develop gross and fine motor skills and language, stimulate social and emotional intelligence, foster creativity, build executive functioning abilities, and enhance the overall integration of a variety of brain functions. In fact, children whose parents play with them, have been shown to have increased school readiness, have higher self-esteem, and endorse stronger connections to their loved ones! Children and adolescents crave one-on-one time with their parents. Parents are encouraged to find even short periods of time to play with them on a regular basis. The play time does not have to last long, even as much as 10 minutes! Play can happen anywhere; outdoors, at the dining room table, at the park, or while exploring the city! Below are our favorite play ideas for different developmental stages:

Birth-12 Months

  • Play Peek-a-Boo by hiding your face or a toy behind a blanket.
  • While singing to your baby, help them  clap along, shake a rattle, or bang on some pots and pans
  • Take a walk! Exercise is good for you, and your baby will enjoy seeing and hearing new things.
  • Play games that involve dumping and pouring. Help your baby put toys in a bucket and then dump them out. In the bath, play with toys that your baby can fill with water.

1-3 Years Old

  • Make a pull toy together by tying cereal boxes together with pieces of string. This will encourage your child to walk.
  • Play with a ball. Start by rolling it across the floor and then move on to throwing and catching
  • Chase each other around the house!
  • Take a swim class with your child. Some organizations offer classes for moms and babies.
  • Go to the park or join a playgroup. Playing with other children in a safe environment helps communication skills and sharing.

3-5 Years

  • Read with your child. Ask your child questions about the story, pictures and characters.
  • Color and draw pictures with your child. Use bright colors and non-toxic crayons.
  • Make a puppet out of a sock or paper bag and watch your child’s imagination soar.
  • Play dress-up with old clothes and Halloween costumes.
  • Build a fort out of blankets and boxes or chairs.
  • Pretend to be different animals. Make sounds and move around like that animal would.

6-9 Years

  • In the car? Look for the letters A to Z, in order, on signs, license plates or billboards.
  • Learn a new sport or physical activity together.
  • Go to the beach and build sandcastles.
  • Complete a puzzle at the kitchen table.
  • Make up a scavenger hunt with clues and a surprise hidden somewhere in the house.

9-14 Years

  • Ask your child to show you how to play their favorite video game.
  • Play their favorite music and have a dance party with them! Make up a new dance move to teach to everyone. Take turns making up new moves.
  • Pull out a board game you haven’t played in a while.
  • Choose a movie to watch together with your favorite snacks.