Posted: Apr 15, 2013 10:00 AM
In a busy world full of constantly beeping electronics, distracted parents tend to lose their focus during playtime. Children use play to learn, explore and bond with their caregivers. Setting aside time to focus on play enhances the parent-child bond and builds trust.

It's not easy being the parent of young children. The to-do list is always a mile long, and it can be difficult to keep up with the day-to-day tasks of motherhood. Sometimes you might even find yourself yearning for the day to come when your child chooses to play independently.

When you play with your child you enter their world, speak their language and communicate that they matter and are worthwhile.

While playing out the same princess theme on repeat for 30 minutes straight can be exhausting, and possibly cause you to review that to-do list in your head, it's essential to give your children uninterrupted parent-child playtime each day. It's not the length of time that matters, it's the time spent bonding and building your relationship.

According to Stacey Foster, LICSW, play therapist and guidance counselor at Thomson Elementary School in North Andover, Massachusetts, "When you play with your child you enter their world, speak their language and communicate that they matter and are worthwhile."

Play is the language of children. When engaged in play, children learn about the world around them, work through their fears and build positive and trusting relationships. When we engage with our children, we show them that their ideas are important to us and that we are always there to listen.

Let them lead

Even very young children have active imaginations and stories to tell. You don't need an extensive vocabulary to communicate your ideas through play. While it can be tempting to jump in and direct playtime, it's best to step back and let your child lead the way.

"Play initiated and directed by children should be a rich and vital part of every child's life," says Mary Alice Long, Ph.D., play-based therapist and creator of Play=Peace.

Avoid distraction

It's no big secret that we live in world of instant gratification and constant distraction. While it's easy to get lost in text messaging and social media updates during a particularly long period of playtime, it's best to leave the electronic devices in another room during play.

"When you focus on playtime with your children, you bond with them. You build your relationship," says Foster. Chances are the dishes and Facebook can wait, but that construction site might really need an extra helper. Lose yourself in the moment instead of worrying about what's happening everywhere else.

When adults rediscover their playful nature as parents, they have many opportunities to share the joy and power of play with their children.

Have fun!

Yes, you have laundry to fold and dinner to make. But you also have the right to have fun with your child. Let go of the intrusive thoughts that cause your stress to skyrocket and enter your child's world of fun for a little while.

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