We know that play is important for children, so...how do we get them to actually do it...for longer than five minutes at a time?
If you are wanting to encourage your child to play for longer periods of time, here are 3 important things that could help them to get in the play zone and stay there.
Help Get them Started The Smart Way
Just telling kids to go play or even walking them to a room with their toys is many times not enough to help them really get going with the open-ended play you are so hoping for. One of the best ways to get kids of any age to start playing is to sit down with them for a few minutes (even just two or three minutes will many times do the trick). Start playing with the open-ended toys you are trying to get them to play with. Hand them a toy and work on something together. When you see an idea of theirs start to click and they get going...they have entered the play zone. At this point they are probably not as aware of your presence as they were and it's a great time to quietly leave them to play solo. Don't talk to them or break their concentration when you are leaving or you may go back to square one.
Play Some Music To Help Them Stay in the Zone
Many times some calming music can really help stimulate ideas and keep kids playing for longer periods of time. Especially for more social kids who like to be with people, music really helps them to engage their minds and hearts as they move their bodies and can really help them stay in the play zone longer. Be mindful with the kind of energy that the music has because your child will pick up and mimic that same energy. If you are wanting a clam, peaceful play time, pick calm, peaceful music. If you are wanting to get them energized and moving, pick more upbeat music. Though times of silence and quiet are also important in the lives of kids, when children are young and are easily distracted and move from activity to activity, having music in the room you want them to stay and play in can be a great play magnet and something that helps them stay put and get lost in their play longer. Create a few go-to playlists for just that purpose so the next time your child enters the play zone you are ready.
Let Them Have Space and Keep Your Distance
This may be one of the most important tips for getting your child to play longer. When we see or hear our child make progress, try an idea, or start a new kind of play, it's really tempting to give them compliments or make comments. This actually makes them aware of our presence and make them "snap out" of the play zone and often will break their concentration and even possibly make them self-conscious of whatever they were trying. I can always tell in the car when my kids forget I'm there because they sing at the top of their lungs, make up songs, and if either my husband or I make a comment (even a positive one), they immediately clam up and stop singing because they either lost their train of thought or forgot we were there altogether and feel too self-aware to be in the spotlight. If they are playing well...leave them alone and make yourself as scarce as possible. If they see or hear you...they will almost always be drawn to you and leave their play.
Following these simple but effective tips can make a big difference and help kids to really get in the creative play zone and actually playing with their toys. Check out our blog for more easy play tips to transform your child's play!
Enjoy the Journey!