Play is an essential aspect of human development. Play is universal… it is an integral part of a child’s life across all nations and cultures. It helps a child develop socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically and is important for child’s well-being and well-rounded development. It is not only healthy for a child to engage in play but also gives an opportunity to the parent or the whole family to bond with each other. Moreover, play provides a window through which the parent/caregiver can see the world of the child. Play is the language that a child uses to express his/her emotions, conflicts, needs and desires. If we adults want to understand our children, especially when they are at a stage where their vocabulary is very limited and they do not have those verbal skills to express what is going on within them, play becomes an essential gateway for us to see and meet them in their world.
Play, other than being beneficial to the child for his/her development; can be highly empowering for the parents as well. Plato once said “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”… and how true that is, especially for children. Since the language of the child is play, we can learn a lot about a child when we learn how to interact with them using their language of play. When parents take out just 30 minutes a week to play with their children using a specific approach called Child-Centered Play, it helps change the dynamics of their relationship in a positive way. This special playtime not only helps the parent/caregiver bond with children but also builds trust and a sense of security. It lets the child know that he/she is important, accepted and loved. It helps improve the parent-child relationship and helps mend those relationships that might be stressed. To a child it gives a positive sense of power and control while helping parents teach their children about boundaries and limits. Parents’ presence and a different way of relating to their child during play can bring healing not only to the relationship but also to other areas of a child’s life as well. This kind of play is especially helpful to those children who might be going through some kind of transition, might have difficulty controlling their emotions or might have difficulty following limits and boundaries.