The Hidden Teaching That Happens During Playtime
New research shows that you can improve the quality of your play with your kids by doing a few simple things:
- Don’t ask questions (during play). This may go against your parenting instinct. In the adult world, asking questions is how you engage in conversation. Kids however, work differently. They are already engaged in play and may be less inclined to answer questions. A better approach would be to describe what you think is happening. For example, if you are playing blocks together you might say, “it looks like you are building a tower.” The child will likely then engage you by telling you more about the tower (e.g., “look how tall it is, etc.”) or simply correcting you (e.g., “no, it’s a building.”) It’s amazing what you can learn when you get a child talking on his/her own terms.
- Praise good behavior during play. Most kids are “good” while they are playing. This catching a child being “good” is easily done during these times. For example, “you are doing great using your inside voice” or “you’re sharing the blocks so nice.”
- Help with language. In a relaxed environment, it’s easy to help correct language problems that arise (e.g., the word is “tower” not “dower.”)
- Be an example. Kids learn by example. If you get down and play with the child, model appropriate behavior. If you are playing a game, it’s a good time to model good sportsmanship.