15 Minutes of Play

When I was in college, I had a professor who talked about the importance of 'child-led play'.  We all know that children learn by playing, but did you know that child-led play can improve language development?  By allowing children to direct the play they have the opportunity to use language in a different way.

This same professor did a study where a child-parent duo were placed in a play area and the only rule was the parent had to do what the child wanted to do for 15 minutes.  It didn't matter what the child chose, the parent had to do it.  This idea of allowing the child choose what to play and how to play for 15 minutes has intrigued me since I first heard about it.  I know what you are thinking... 'my kid could destroy my house, if I gave him the freedom to choose for 15 minutes' but in all reality that is probably not going to happen.  Although it can seem unnerving to let your kiddo choose whatever type of play they want, it does reveal some interesting things you may have not noticed before.

I have done this free play with my daughter since she was very little (probably well before she understood what was going on).  I start it the same way every time.  I get down to her level, place my hands on her shoulders and ask what she would like to do with me, uninterrupted for 15 minutes.  Her face lights up and she pictures the many things she wants to do.  She almost always excitedly chooses a dramatic play (make-believe) type activity.  She collects her toys, and explains some elaborate story that I can barely follow because it is always so complicated.  To be completely honest, I don't really love make-believe play because my daughter comes up with names like 'La Layna Lydia'.  She will tell me the name, then correct my pronunciation for the next five minutes because I have no clue what she is saying.  However, I look past the minor annoyances of the names and overly complicated storyline, and see that my daughter cherishes this time.  She can play the way she loves to play one on one with me and she adores this time.  We always end in good moods after we are done, and the 15 minutes isn't much time at all.  It is 1% of my day.  I can handle letting my child decide what we do for 1% of the day.  As a side note, not once have we completed those 15 minutes to find our house in total disarray.  It has always been a quick, manageable clean up, because that one on one time with my full attention is what my daughter is most excited about.  

I want to encourage you mamas out there to try this, just once.  Set the timer, turn off your phone and all the other distractions, and engage with your child.  Whatever you child wants to do, for a full 1% of your day, and see what a difference it makes in their attitudes the rest of the day.

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