Kids lead very busy lives. There are so many books to read, places to go, people to see, things to do, and games to play.
Games help to fuel children’s creativity–and vice versa.
Here are ten suggestions for parents, babysitters, camp counsellors, and other care-givers to consider when thinking about games for young children:
- Keep it safe. Children should feel comfortable within their environment. A safe and properly supervised setting is necessary for free-spirited play, and also allows adults to step back a bit and let children work things out for themselves—and then feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Encourage both independent play as well as interaction. Sometimes kids like to be on their own. However, connecting with others can lead to wonderful opportunities for learning and discovery, help children develop relationships, and give them a chance to practice important skills like sharing, listening, and taking turns.
- Make it fun. Don’t be fussy. Get creative! Involve the senses. Let play be unstructured, and if possible take the activity outdoors so everyone gets some fresh air.
- Boredom is okay. It lets children figure out what they want to do next, and what interests them. Don’t feel you have to fill a child’s every waking moment with activities.
- Keep a bin with lots of stuff handy. Arts and crafts supplies, dress up clothes, boxes, blocks, books, and what ever else might capture children’s imaginations and enable them to create their own games.
- Give children time and space. Don’t pressure children into adhering to time frames that short-circuit their game-playing. When it’s time to wrap things up reassure them that they can still continue whatever they’re doing another time.
- Respect children’s preferences. If they’re not interested in a particular game, set it aside. Don’t force kids to play a certain game just because you like it. Perhaps it will be more appealing another day. Talk together about other options.
- Make it developmentally appropriate. That is, not too simple as to be a drag, and not too complicated as to be overly challenging or to cause consternation. However, it’s okay if kids confront setbacks along the way because that’s how they learn resilience. Even the simplest board games are designed to show children that they can recoup if they hit a snag or move in the wrong direction.
- It’s not about winning. It’s about the pleasure of participating in something that is enjoyable, and potentially a learning experience.
- Cultivate curiosity. Harness spontaneity, including seizing the moment and trying something different or innovative, and let children take the lead and show what they’d like to do. For example, it may be something technological (fine in moderation) or something totally silly, or cerebral, or artsy, or low-key, or somewhat rough-and-tumble.
Above all, be supportive—of children’s choices, interests, abilities, and creative impulses.
For more information see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews, PhD and Joanne Foster, EdD (House of Anansi, 2014) and visit www.beyondintelligence.net.
Links to related articles that focus on play and child development:
Help Children Develop Their Talents and Creativity Via Play – by Dona Matthews
Six Ways to Protect Our Child’s Play Time – by Andrea Nair
Stressed Out in America: Five Reasons to Let Your Kids Play – by Katie Hurley