Most parents understand the benefits of play for their children. It’s how kids learn, grow, and express themselves naturally. But, did you know that there are incredible cognitive and mental health benefits of playing and having fun with your kids by joining in on their activities with them?
Yes, you read that right. You’re never too old to play. In fact, getting down on your child’s level and getting involved in playtime can be beneficial for both of you.
Let’s take a closer look at the importance of maintaining an active role in the lives of your kids, and how simple playtime activities can boost your mental health while helping with your kids’ development and cognitive growth.
While letting your child play on their own and use their imagination is great, they’ll also benefit from playing and engaging with you. Play helps children develop certain skill sets. You can help them grow those skill sets even faster by getting on their level. By playing with your child, you’ll help to foster things like:
- Social skills;
- Cognitive development;
- Leadership skills;
- Lower stress levels.
You might wonder why they can’t just play with friends or siblings. They can and absolutely should. But, there’s a difference when it comes to parent play. You have the unique ability to provide more structure to your child’s social interactions when you engage with them through play, and you can even broaden their imagination with your knowledge of the world. Sibling relationships and friendships are limited in that regard. They can only “teach” so much and provide a limited worldview perspective.
Most importantly, however, you’ll secure a strong, healthy attachment with your child that can help them seek out healthy relationships later in life. You’re setting the groundwork now for how your kids will interact with others well into adulthood.
Managing Your Mental Health
Your kids aren’t the only ones who will benefit from parent play. By engaging in activities with your children each day, you can use it as a form of self-care, and a way to encourage more healthy habits in your life. Not only does playing with your kids allow you a glimpse into their imagination and thought process, but it can also do wonders for your mental health. Some of the greatest mental wellness benefits of playing with your children include:
- Better cognitive function;
- Reduced stress;
- Improved relationships.
It should come as no surprise that playing with your child can actually make you feel more youthful, too. It’s not uncommon for adults to feel a lack of inspiration and creativity. You might feel like you don’t have the same imaginative nature you had as a child. While it isn’t some magic “fountain of youth,” it can boost your creativity, give you more energy each day, and even sharpen your sense of humor. Whether you have a high-stress job, you’re feeling burnt out, or other aspects of your life are damaging your mental well-being, playing with your little one is a great way to reduce some of that stress and start feeling more like yourself again.
It’s also important to note some of the physical benefits you can experience from everyday play, too. Depending on which activities you enjoy with your kids, playing can help you manage weight, reduce your risk of disease, and help to strengthen muscles and bones. As the old saying goes, you’re only as young as you feel. Engaging in playtime with your kids can make you feel younger mentally and physically.
Playtime Activities for Everyone
There are some things you’ll be more interested in playing with your child than others. And, again, it’s important for them to engage in solo play and playtime with peers. So, what can you do to set up playtime activities everyone will enjoy and benefit from?
First, consider their interests and their strengths. Do they have a vivid imagination and tend to favor creative activities? If so, try things like making jewelry or toys together. Or, let them help you in the kitchen as you whip up a batch of cookies. Cooking and baking are both great ways to foster curiosity and creativity, educate your children on different areas of science, and create lasting, delicious memories.
You can also take advantage of seasons and holidays if you’re looking for a little playtime inspiration. Create art with leaves in the fall. Have a picnic in the park in the summer. Consider taking a “staycation” and finding fun things to do as a family within your neighborhood.
Most importantly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Your kids will enjoy the simplicity of you getting down on their level and actually playing and interacting with them. Even if it’s only for a few minutes each day, you’ll both enjoy the mental health benefits of that one-on-one time, and you’ll foster a connection that will strengthen your relationship forever.