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Child's Play


As a parent, have you ever had a teacher complain that your child "can't sit still" or "he doesn't play nice with the other kids," as well as "he can't wait his turn?" Our children have all heard such messages, and these messages contribute heavily to how your child feels about himself. What can be done to help your child learn the necessary skills for success? Imaginative game play will actually increase your children's potential for an improved sense of self and for academic success, all he needs is you.

Young children clearly like to play and involve themselves in make-believe. In previous years children would be outside playing outside in forts, riding bicycles, or playing on sandlots. Even my granddaughter plays with dress up costumes, her trucks, Lego's, dolls, and play cooking in her play kitchen. She invites others in to play with her, asking for assistance in picking out jewelry while she is cooking, talking and interacting. Her "play" is preparation for the bigger world she will one day live in; the more practice she gets the more emotionally successful she will be. All of her play takes time to create, anticipate and enjoy. Doing it with others serves to increase the social fun and, consequently, her skill learning.

Imaginative play prepares your child for social and academic success. In a number of recent studies, parents were asked to participate with their children in make-believe games, such as doll play, Candy Land or Apples to Apples. These games include lessons about numbers, colors, shapes, vocabulary, and reading, as well as practicing sitting still and waiting for one's turn. Children who regularly play these games with their parents in these imaginative ways will make significant progress in reading readiness skills, as the child has learned through constant practice to sit still, wait his turn, encourage the other players, and works toward a goal, all of which are the necessary skills for doing well in the academic environment. Playing games with your children is good for you, as the parent, because it involves you as a full partner in your child's ongoing cognitive and emotional development.

Interestingly, a significant percentage of American children enter kindergarten each year unprepared to learn. How can that be, they are all probably smart enough? But it seems that sitting down is not only a behavior, it is a skill that requires practice, day after day. And you, the parent, can be the mentor for your child. Whereas it is likely that children will often have their physical needs met (physician and dentist visits) being cared for on a regular basis, as parents we may often let our child down by missing out on the chance to assist in the his necessary emotional and developmental learning. Participating in make-believe play and games can improve or enhance your child's school readiness skills and abilities. The single most important factor, however, remains that the parent must be there in order for this learning to occur.

As parents, finding the time for engaging and interacting with your children in early creative game playing can be on your "to do" list as your responsibility toward your child. Imaginative play is one kind of care that is enjoyable for both parent and child, and is effective in preparing your children for the academic and social experience at school. Through ongoing opportunities your children will gain experience and motivation in learning games that produce measurable gains in your children's ready-to-learn skills, such as enhanced vocabulary, self-esteem, respect for others, and patience. Perhaps you can use this summer to prepare your child for this coming school year. Let the games begin.

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