A few months ago, my 16 month old girl had the opportunity of spending a few weeks with one of her lively 2 years old cousin. It was amazing to see them bond despite the lack of words. The development I have observed in both of them made me wonder about what our city-raised children miss out on, playtime with their age-mates.
Do you know a toddler who doesn’t know the basics of operating a smartphone? What about a toddler who doesn’t know how to play with others her age? Nowadays, Children as young as one year old are able to turn on a phone and take a selfie but they are totally clueless when it comes to interacting with their age mates. Our fast paced lifestyle and the concrete jungle with its packed parking also used as a ‘playground’, thus the constant need to keep them busy with piano and painting lessons keep them from going out to play with their peers. Moreover, the improper use of digital devices in our homes are also keeping children as prisoners in their home. On the rare occasions that they get to play with other kids, it is usually difficult to make them share things and be considerate towards each other, in other words the culture of entitlement comes to the surface.
I believe extracurricular activities and digital devices are important for their growth and for their mental development but I also believe that there is so much to gain from the usual playtime with other children. Science also shows that when kids spend time playing outside with their friends, they develop fine motor skills, their social skills are sharpened, and their neurological development is boosted among other things. The common problems that young children have these days such as obesity, bullying, depression and anxiety can be attributed to lack of playtime and interaction with others.
It is also important to note that the size of a standard family especially in cities has gone down noticeably and couples with one child are very common. Therefore, the only time most children get to be with other kids is most probably on birthday parties or family events. Two or three decades ago, the idea of planning for a play-date for children might seem absurd but our lifestyle now sometimes requires that we plan for play-dates or playgroups with other parents.
Why plan for play-dates?
Children learn best from each other as they spend time together. Playing together helps them to grow socially, intellectually and physically. Here are some benefits of playing with others.
Develop different skills
Children have an amazing imagination and a lot of energy that is why they can play for long. The more they play together, the more they learn how to work together, how to share and take turns, how to empathize and, tolerate each other. While doing so, they pick social, problem solving, and, leadership skills.
What children need more of these days is how to self entertain when they are ‘bored’. Through their imagination they learn how to be creative. They also develop their self confidence and learn self regulation without the parent’s nudge.
Playdates are beneficial for parents too as they create opportunities to meet other parents and learn from each other. It also strengthens the child-parent bond because memories are created from spending time together and doing enjoyable things.
We are in a time where our diverse world is need of creative solutions for our problems, appreciation of differences, and respect towards each other and raising our children right is a big step towards that serenity. I believe playing is one of the easiest ways of teaching children these much needed values.
This first appeared on The Standard in September 2017.
Image source: The Mouth of the Kenai