Play is only Natural - the importance of playing with our kids
I have written before in the alegria blog about how natural play toys and play areas have become increasingly popular. But I think that there is also another aspect to the notion ‘natural play’, that play is only natural.
If we consider that playing is a natural action for children, we can consider it to be for us parents as well. It is a way to engage with our children more often than we do. Despite setting a specific time at home or in an environment for our children to play, like going to the park or attending specific activities, we must understand that play time for them does not necessarily have a specific window of time like it does for us adults. In fact, play time happens at every moment of their day. So not only it is important to take time to play with our children, but equally to engage them in our daily activities and chores thus transforming them into play time for the entire family. Play for children is only natural, and so is using their imagination. Both are children’s way to discover, learn, and grow.
There is a vast amount of knowledge and good habits that we can instill in our children via pretend play such as love of nature, empathy, self-reliance, and so on. Every day new opportunities emerge for a new topic. One example of engaging our children into daily activities is cooking together as a family. The moment we allow children to become part of this process, they learn about cooking, how to organize, count, clean up, concentrate, amongst many other skills. Cooking or preparing meals together is also a fabulous opportunity to teach our children about the importance of healthy eating habits and choices. It is also an opportunity for parents to transform a daily chore into fun for the whole family.
One example of how ‘natural play’ can be practiced with toddlers and babies is by engaging them into our daily workout exercises. The internet is filled with websites that provide tips on exercises parents can do with or whilst carrying their little ones. In fact, many of these exercise routines are specifically designed to integrate babies and toddlers. Currently, exercises which include the participation of babies and toddlers are more geared towards women. However, there are many dads out there who work out with their babies, toddlers, and bigger children. This is a brilliant way to spend time with your little ones and instill the good habit of exercising. There are some parents that have changed their workout routine into a family workout routine where mum, dad and baby ‘play’ together whilst doing resistance exercises. In several instances the little one participates as resistance weight in the exercise routine and has loads of fun being lifted or carried around. Some mums have mastered this topic by combining teaching their toddlers how to pick up their toys after themselves, with a little help from mummy, whilst doing squats, hamstring stretches, and side planks.
So the often monotonous cooking chore or the “must but do not have time” exercise routine becomes playing time for the parents and the little ones. The moral of the story is let’s become kids again and rediscover the power of play. Let us be imaginative in the ways we can engage our kids in our daily activities and routines and how we can transform them into fun for the entire family. Imagination and playfulness was at one time in our lives something natural. So, as we walk together with our kids on the path of parenthood let us rediscover what we once had and lost. Let us play imaginatively as it is only natural.
- Flavia Augusta de Almeida