Your Children Need to Play
By Mark Brandenburg
They need to play for many reasons. Many fathers today remember
spending countless hours playing with siblings or friends during their
childhood. Parents would drop you off somewhere and your imaginations would take
over as you became soldiers, famous ballplayers, dinosaur hunters, etc.
There are many factors that make it more difficult for children
to play in today's world.
There is an emphasis on early academics. There is more TV
watching today by children than ever before. There is the seductive attraction
of video games.
There is also the need for constant supervision of our kids in
These factors and others have helped to create children who
sometimes have forgotten how to have imaginative play. They'll have a house full
of toys but say "I'm bored" or that they have nothing to do. They may look to
their parents to entertain them, rather than creating their own play.
What is the importance of having your children engage in
creative play when they're young?
Creative play is believed by many child researchers to form the
foundation of emotional, creative, and intellectual growth in later years. It
should be considered a normal part of a child's development.
Sadly, many young children do not have the opportunity to engage
in much creative play because they are presented with "alternatives" like
video/computer games or excessive TV watching.
While some of these alternatives claim to benefit children
(train your child on computers early to get a head start!), there is nothing
like creative play. Other alternatives do not allow your children's fantasies to
The idea of replacing your child's creative play with academic
work may be based on good intentions, but will rob your child of a precious
How can fathers help to encourage imaginative play in their
children? Many of us are not knowledgeable about this topic and have left this
work to others.
Here are some ideas:
o Be willing to be fully involved with your child's creative
play. Yes, that means that you will be a wild horse running through the desert
(your living room) at times. Too adult for that? Get over it!
o Realize that you don't have to entertain your kids all of the
time. When they start to expect to be entertained, they will be less likely to
engage in play. Set them free in a room without TV or video games and let them
go to it.
o Get them into nature when possible. Let them play with the
soil, the sand, or the water whenever you can.
o Consider "tapering down" the quantity and types of toys that
your children have around the house. Having huge numbers of toys that leave
little to the imagination does not encourage creative play. Children often do
best with simple toys, or even household items that are readily accessible
(wooden spoons, pots and pans).
o Provide artistic opportunities for your child to express what
he/she is feeling.
o Tell stories with rich images to your children and read to
them often. Reading fairy tales is a wonderful way to provide these images as
o Consider the amount of TV watching that your child is engaged
in each day. Explore alternatives to watching TV that would involve more
creative play. You may have to be the catalyst for your child if there's
resistance to this.
All around us, the adult world is being thrust upon our children
at earlier and earlier ages. We are encouraged as parents to help our young kids
"get ahead" academically or to buy them the latest fads in toys.
As fathers, it is your responsibility to look beyond all of this
to what your children truly need. Your children need to do what they do very
naturally when they are given the opportunity.
They need to play.
Give your children the chance to prepare themselves for life as
an adult in the best way possible.
It's the only chance that they're going to get.