Anyone who has a child or was a child knows, play is important. Why is play good for kids? What can play do for your child’s development?
What kinds of play make both kids and moms happy? The kind that is fun and good for the body and brain.
What do your kids love to play? Besides watch YouTube. Because we pretty much covered that in part one of this series!
In this article, I’ll tell you some of my kids’ favorite playtime activities and my mom rating for each one. I’ll also share with you how play helps kids develop important skills.
You never knew play was so good for kids!
1) Music, Singing, and Dancing
My kids absolutely love music, and I am thrilled with this. There are so many ways they enjoy music.
They go to shows and musicals. One attends a class that teaches Broadway-style singing, dancing, and acting. They’re doing Shrek the Musical right now.
They turn on Pandora and have impromptu dance parties.
They have dance parties to the music playing during the credits at the end of movies.
When it’s time to clean up their toys, they accompany themselves to the tune of “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” from the movie Annie. Of course, I get to be Miss Hannigan.
Mom rating – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The reason I give music, singing and dancing five stars is that it’s just plain good for humans!
Music helps us think better, concentrate, remember. It reduces stress, improves mood, increases motivation.
Studies show that children who have music lessons have greater brain plasticity, which is its ability to change and grow.
So yes, I want my kids to love music. It improves my mood too, watching their antics.
Except when it’s time for bed. Somehow the craziness tends to escalate the later it gets!
2) Role Play Games
Especially when friends are over, I often hear them creating alternate personas and roles for themselves and then acting them out together.
Sometimes they pretend realistic roles like family or friendships. Other times they act out fantastical imaginings such as superheroes and imaginary creatures.
Mom rating -⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Once again five stars because researchers have found this type of play improves:
- Social skills
- Language skills
Role-playing is not only good for kids but essential to building their brains and social abilities. It can also open up important conversations about your family’s values and standards.
At times I hear them pretend something I don’t like. It’s hard to decide if I should say something about it or not.
If they are imagining an argument of some kind, or when one character is being mean to the others I ignore it. This is practice for real life. They get a chance to try out different responses and imagine how it could turn out
If they imagine something I really don’t like, I have tried bringing it up later. I’ll say, “I know you were only pretending, but do you know why we would never do that in real life?”
They usually don’t like it when I talk about the way they play, so I reserve it for times when their play reflects something against our family values. But it does give us a chance to have important conversations. I get to explain the kinds of behavior we approve of, the kinds we don’t, and why.
3) Dolls and accessories like houses, clothing, furniture, families, and pets
We have a few different types of dolls ranging from the ever current Barbie to the newest kids on the block, LOL Surprise Dolls.
We also have a Barbie hotel, a princess castle, and a small vintage Fisher Price dollhouse.
You don’t need a dollhouse to play with dolls though. Lately, my girls’ favorite way to set up Barbie’s room is to use pillows from their own beds.
Mom rating -⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The benefits of this type of play are similar to role-playing. This time instead of personally being a character, the pretend play is in the third person. This helps them with the ability to step back and see situations from more than one perspective.
4) Baking and Cooking
Dough is fun! I mean who doesn’t love squishing it and rolling it and stirring and beating.
They also love cutting veggies and fruit for me. We’ve started slow, with butter knives and things that are easy to cut, like a peeled apple.
Both have graduated to serrated knives and we talk about how to hold it safely each time they help.
Measuring ingredients is another cooking activity kids love. I bought brightly colored measuring cups and spoons to up the fun factor!
Five stars again!
Even though my kitchen gets a lot messier with little helpers, the benefits far outweigh the mess.
Besides being fun, it helps kids learn skills like math and following directions.
It’s bonding time with the grown-up who cooks with them.
They feel a sense of accomplishment.
They learn their way around the kitchen and will be more likely to have healthy eating habits as adults. (Unless all you do is bake chocolate chip cookies?)
I’m so happy that both of my kids love books.
My older one has started chapter books now. A couple of her favorites are Wonder and Alice In Wonderland.
Her favorite series is the graphic novel series Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.
She also likes to read non-fiction, especially when it’s about space or the earth.
My little one can’t read yet, but every night before bed we have to read an Elephant and Piggie book. This is a super cute series by Mo Willems. The illustrations are so well done. They help kids identify feelings and entertain at the same time.
For the little one, I try to point to the words as I read aloud. We’re working on recognizing letters and the sounds that go with them.
In school, the older one has learned to use sticky notes to mark pages of interest. They keep a reading journal which helps with comprehension.
I especially love when my older one reads to the little one before bedtime. She gets quite theatrical with the voices. The only problem with that is reading is supposed to settle them down, not get them hyper!
Lately, we’ve gotten into the habit of listening to audiobooks when we’re on a drive. We all get really into the story and it makes driving time fun.
We have been listening to the series featuring Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary. I love how this series documents the interactions of two sisters. It fits well in our home, with two girls trying to navigate life in their respective roles as big sister and little sister.
No need to back this up. Every parent wants his or her child to read well. It’s the basis for success in all sorts of things.
If your child views reading as play, that means it is fun. This means he will want to do it.
If you feel like your child is not reading well enough or often enough, try not to stress about it. He will sense your anxiety and it will start to feel forced.
Look for topics they enjoy. Try to have a variety of books on their shelf. Often my kids picked something I never would have thought they would, so the more choices they have the greater the chances they will like some of them.
Going to the local library is a great way to make reading exciting. It turns it into an outing. Most libraries have a children’s room with a play area, so going there on a rainy day is almost like going to the playground.
Have your child pick a few books for herself as well as a few that you choose. Be sure to read one while you are there. Find a comfy corner with pillows or a rug and turn it into a snuggle.
6) Building blocks
We have a collection of Legos that could almost rival Legoland.
Building blocks are such an ideal toy. They have limitless scope for the imagination. They are interesting to kids of any age. When our girls want to play something with us, we’ll often steer them towards Lego blocks because we like them too! (Big kids at heart, hee hee)
A friend of mine introduced me to the ideal way to solve the biggest Lego problem; clean up! Simply lay down an old sheet on the floor before the kids dump the box. Because of course, they have to dump. Never fails. Then, when it’s time to clean up, just bring together the corners and you can dump all the tiny-winy itty-bitty pieces back into the box at once.
Building blocks teach a bunch of essential skills through play.
- Fine motor skills
- Spatial awareness
- Even language improves if the players talk about what they are building
My girls love skating, swimming, and biking, among other things.
There are so many different activities to choose from. Part of the fun comes from trying something new and seeing what we enjoy or are good at.
We like our sports better informal and for fun instead of joining a team. I would much rather play hockey with a bunch of neighborhood kids than work out at the gym.
Of course, many of you probably have your kids on a team or join a gym. There are many options out there. Besides school teams, there are stand-alone sports facilities in many areas that offer lessons or team sports. That’s just our family’s preference.
We just spent the last few days ice skating on an outdoor lake. There’s nothing like it. Seeing my girls willingly spend hours outside even in the winter makes me so happy. It was part of my childhood and their joy brings me back.
We play as a family or with a group of friends. Sometimes it’s whoever shows up from the neighborhood. Parents, grandparents, and kids together.
We played hockey three times with whoever happened to be skating at the town rink, and my older one is now obsessed. We were motley groups who didn’t know each other at all and played at all different levels.
Despite that, we all had fun. Even the good players have more fun against us amateurs than shooting the puck into an empty net.
In my opinion, when different age groups and skill levels play together, it’s much more fun. It challenges the kids to get better and keeps sports play from getting too competitive.
Mom rating -⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The benefits of playing sports include things like a healthier body, endorphins to the brain, lessons in good sportsmanship, the structure of following the rules of the game.
Playing gets five stars because it’s good for kids!
It turns out each of these activities has earned five stars. Each of these is something my kids choose to play. I don’t teach this to them, organize it, or push it on them.
Kids instinctively know what to do to discover the wonders there are to learn in this world and among friends.
Let them play. It’s so good for them in many ways.
As parents, the best thing we can do is provide the tools and opportunity to play!