Building A Family Culture of Play
Watching a child build a fort with blocks or a whole imaginary world with sand buckets at the beach is a study in concentration and learning. Play is how kids learn – about the world, about their connection to other people and about themselves.
Giving kids the free time to play is critical for their development, and having different opportunities to play is also important. Outdoor adventures, pretend play, solo and group play all help cultivate different skills, including fine and gross motor development, cognitive and social-emotional learning skills.
We encourage parents to seek out opportunities to play with their kids. This shared time of doing something together just for fun builds lasting bonds and allows a safe space for open communication to grow.
At the National Parenting Product Awards (NAPPA Awards) we have a front row view of how important play is. We often hear from our parent toy and game evaluators how connected they felt to their children when playing a certain game and how happy they are to have discovered this new (and fun) way to interact with their child.
Kids Grow Through Play
Parents also often tell us that they can see their child’s growth in a variety of ways through play. They see empathy come through when their child gently cares for their cuddly stuffed animals, and they see enhanced concentration and social connection when playing a board game together as a family.
Our lives as parents are hectic. There is so much to do in the day – work, meal prep, school and other activities and just keeping our house together. Taking the time to come together as a family and play a game is one of the best ways to connect and for everyone to destress.
Play as a Family
Start a family tradition of game nights (or weekend mornings if that works better) for your family. Start it when your kids are toddlers and continue it through the teen years and adulthood. Seek out games and activities that you enjoy together as a family and make the time for it at least once a week. When you’re on vacation, take some games with you for in-between activities and after dinner. The goal is to create a consistent culture of fun.
While your kids are enhancing their strategic and critical thinking skills through these games, you’re building connections as a family and showing your kids that you genuinely enjoy their company – that’s a feeling they will carry with them always.
Elena Epstein is a mom of two and the director of the National Parenting Product Awards (NAPPA Awards), which has been celebrating the best in games and toys for more than 32 years.