News & Views
from   The Parenting Center at Abington

.   Will You Play With Me?

   "Mommy, you promised we could play Candy Land today." "Dad, can we shoot some hoops later on?" "Hey Mom, I just got a great idea for somethin' we can make!" "C'mon Pop, let's have some fun; show me your stuff."

Kids and play.
     They go together like peanut butter and jelly. Fish and water. Sun and shine. But kids, play AND parents?

Play is "Work" for Kids
     Play is one of the key ways kids learn - about themselves and their world. Through a wide variety of play experiences, they learn important information about their bodies and how they function. They use their five senses to discover new textures and tastes, scents and sounds, faces and places. School age children gain valuable practice in sharing, compromise and cooperation through interactive play. Just as parents have a "job," or work they must do, play is the "work" of childhood. It is part of the developmental process of growing.

   Parents "play" a valuable role in this "work." Putting aside our own priorities and focusing solely on playing with our child(ren) sends them vital life messages. To a child, time with you equals love. Focused attention, direct involvement in an activity they can do, or "all-hereness" as Dorothy Corkille Briggs states, "is a quality that gets love across." Without words, it says, "I care." "You are special." "I value you." "You are worth my time and attention." These messages form the core of a child's sense of worth.

Genuine Encounter
      Briggs entitles this focused attention on a child "genuine encounter." In her book, Your Child's Self-Esteem, she writes that "every child needs periodic genuine encounters with his parents." How often do we get so "caught up" in our tasks as parents that we only give "partial" encounter, if any at all? Not only does "genuine encounter" directly impact the way a child sees himself, but it serves to build up and strengthen the parent-child relationship most of us hope will last a lifetime. Dad and Josh learn about each other and themselves as they play catch, wrestle on the floor, or read a story together. Regular play times can unite us, free us from stress, and enable us to truly love and appreciate each other.

Obstacles to Genuine Encounter
     First, it can be incredibly difficult to provide these "encounters" with our "to do" lists screaming for "focused attention." Where does Mom fit in Candy Land with Megan and still keep on top of the increasing demands of everyday life? A second obstacle may be that for some of us play does not come easily. We may not know how to play. In our growing up years, opportunities for play may not have been provided. Our parents may have placed a low value on playing with their children. We may feel awkward or uncomfortable. Thirdly, we may hold the belief that "play is frivolous," or "play costs lots of money" and avoid situations where we might be forced to play.
      Established beliefs and patterns of interacting can be tough to change. Despite knowing our kids need us to have fun with them, we might hold back because they have siblings, friends or other relatives with whom they can play. Or how about all of those lonely toys stuffed in closets waiting for Toy Story 3?!! Parents of adolescents may meet with resistance from teens who seem more eager to be with peers or their music. As beliefs and/or relationships change, parents may need to experiment with new ways and times to play.

Bonuses for Parents
     There seem to be rewards, even bonuses for parents who play with their children!! Read the testimonies that follow from moms, dads, and grandparents who were asked, "What are the benefits for you personally when you play with your child(ren)?"
     Playing with the kids helps me to relax. It keeps me fit. It brings out my creativity. Most importantly, play strengthens the bond between me and my children.
      Play lightens my mood. Makes me see life from a lighter perspective and develops my fun side.
      I feel rejuvenated if I can let go of my mental lists! (That takes effort!) I love to see the joy in the kids' eyes. And I see the details - her eyelashes, the color of his hair, his expressions, the way she laughs….
      Playing helps me rediscover my childhood. I experience unabashed laughter & giggles. That just doesn't happen often with adults.
      Playing with my grandchildren provides an environment where I gain recognition, personal satisfaction, new viewpoints, surprises…..and have a good time while being assured of repeat business!!!

Suggested Resources for Play
       Required: Parent(s), Child(ren), Time & Imagination Optional: The out of doors, games, toys, music, books, craft supplies….….snow?!!
       Spontaneous or planned, one on one, as a family, or with a large group, regular times of play can foster renewal and growth for both you and your children. Gather the required resources and GO PLAY!!!!

By: Pam Nicholson, MSW, Certified Parenting Educator

February 2000
Vol. 2/ Issue 4

A publication from The Parenting Center at Abington
P.O. Box 596, Abington, PA 19001 (215) 576-0586

Printing of this newsletter is courtesy of the Abington Memorial Hospital.

[ To archived listing | To PCA Home Page ]