10 Ways to Connect Emotionally with Your Child through Play
Edu&Kate's .·September 05, 2023
As parents, we have an important role in shaping the lives of our children. To help them reach their full potential, its important to eliminate distractions and focus on their growth and development without overwhelming their routine. Choosing the right toys can encourage creativity and exploration.
1. Eliminate distractions
Turning off all electronic devices that might be a distraction for your child, including the television, tablet, and even the cell phone, may seem absurd. However, the goal is for your child's mind to focus solely on being creative, using their imagination, and exploring their environment.
2. Don't overload the routine
Children need large amounts of free time to play and explore the world in their daily lives, regardless of their age. Try to structure your routine tasks so that your child has enough time to play without any time limit or structure.
3. Get involved, but let them lead
There's nothing wrong with getting involved in your child's play; on the contrary, it encourages interaction and strengthens the bond of affection between you. However, let them lead the play, allowing for greater exploration of the environment, self-regulation, and causal understanding.
4. Choose the right toys
Since not all toys are equal, you must choose toys for your child that turn play into educational experiences and fundamentally promote learning.
Edu&Kate's games are great examples of toys that are designed to help turn a child's natural play into a growing learning experience.
5. Let the child fail
Even while engaging with your child in play, you need to let him fail, encouraging him to learn from his own mistakes. It can go as far as simply letting him fit pieces in the wrong places in a matching game like SuperCombo.
6. Repeat and ask questions
When playing with your child, imitate his sounds or actions to reinforce his vocabulary and cognitive abilities. For older children, ask open-ended questions based on what they are doing, words, numbers, colors, shapes, etc.
For example, if your child is playing SuperCombo, you might intervene as follows:
- Child picks up the dog piece: Mom says: That's the dog. He goes "Woof, Woof".
- Child picks up the strawberry: Mother says: The strawberry is red. You like strawberries.
7. Encourage, encourage, encourage!
While playing, keep up the energy and positivity. Say things like "Good job, you put all the pieces in the right place!" Or giving a hug or "high five" helps boost their confidence and encourages them to keep playing and learning.
8. Make play fun & creative
Create a fun space for your children that offers different learning areas (it could be an art table, book nook, or magnetic board), and choose vibrant, multi-functional toys.
9. Give them space
While we advocate your presence in your child's play to enhance the learning experience, it is equally important to give them some space so that they can learn to play and explore independently. The amount of space you can give your child will depend on their age, but even for small babies, staying a few feet away from where they are sitting will give them more freedom to make their own decisions. This "independent" play usually happens when they are most creative (you see their imagination at work) and builds confidence in general when they realize what they can do on their own.
10. Continue learning
When play is over, that doesn't mean the learning stops there. Try incorporating some of these ideas into your daily routine to keep the learning going:
- Count the stairs out loud each time you go up or down.
- Sing the ABCs while changing a diaper.
- As you put them on, explain exactly what you are doing (i.e., "I am putting my right arm in my shirt").
- Stop and look in the mirror and make different facial expressions.
- Allow them to touch and explore different fabrics and textures. Describe what they are feeling (soft, bumpy, hard, scratchy, silky, etc.).
- Talk to them about their emotions - point out when they look sad, upset, happy, or tired.
Degree in Occupational Therapy, Escola Superior de Saúde - P.Porto. Post-graduate in Sensory Integration, Escola Superior de Saúde do Alcoitão
She is passionate about working in the field of pediatrics, more specifically in the areas of developmental delay and special education. What drives her is being able to give more learning opportunities to children with developmental difficulties, working every day to support parents, guardians and fellow therapists.