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Playing with your Child

Play is important

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is probably one of the most tired truisms in the English language. However, the truth of this adage hasn't worn off with repeated use. The fact remains that play plays an important role in the development of a child. 

Today, babies are part of the rat race almost from the day they are born. Parents rush to register their babies in "good" schools at birth. Parents think of college funds and ponder on the future achievements of their children while their babies are still in the cradle. There is great pressure on today's children to achieve and perform even before they have joined kindergarten. Sometimes in the anxiety that their child will 'miss the bus', parents tend to forget that childhood is a special time when the child should look forward to the next day eagerly, without a care in the world.

Children discover the world through Play

Young children seem to want to play all the time. Parents who think that their children should stop "goofing off" and focus on getting on in the world, should remember that play is a means of learning for children. Children discover the world through play. Fancy toys are often wasted on children at this stage. Children have vivid imaginations so that the simplest objects can endlessly fascinate them. For instance, a cardboard carton could represent a bed, a house, a castle, etc. 

Around the age of two, children love to mimic the actions of their parents and other members of the household. Children will attempt to shave, wash dishes, sweep the floor, and so on. Building blocks give free rein to the child's creativity at this age. 

Parents should remember not to apply adult rules and regulations to the games that they play with their children. If your daughter wants to dress her doll in mismatched clothes or wants to colour the sky red, let her. The child should be allowed to play at the level of her maturity, not yours. If she is to be corrected and instructed in the 'right' way to play with toys, she will lose confidence and interest in playing. Parents often tend to buy toys that they find interesting. These may be too complicated for the child.

Children have to be taught sharing

Children are not naturally altruistic. They have to be taught to share. If another child tries to take away your two year old's favourite toy, she will probably react by crying, throwing a tantrum or may be even hitting the other child. This is quite normal. However, if your child looks like she could hurt the other child, draw her attention elsewhere. Reprimanding your child at this stage will only make her more aggressive as she will be unable to understand why you are making her give away something that belongs to her. Sharing is too advanced a concept at this stage. 

If your child tends to grab things from a smaller or weaker child, separate them till your child has learnt to share. If your child is always the grabber, never the 'grabbee', it may help to make her play with slightly older children who will stand up for themselves and put her in her place. If by the age of three, your child is still aggressive it is a good idea to find out if there is something bothering her. In the beginning, children do not really care about other children. As they grow older, they develop a feeling of attachment to other children and they will voluntarily exhibit generosity. Parents can offer some guidance by explaining that the children should take turns playing with a treasured toy. 

Subconscious actions can limit horizons

Parents subconsciously discriminate between daughters and sons from a very young age. Girls are gifted with dolls whereas there seems to be some unspoken rule that only boys can play with cars and toy soldiers. Girls are supposed to be too delicate to climb trees or play rough games. Household chores are considered to be a part of the female domain. Therefore boys escape this routine. Parents who bring up their children with the idea that there are certain appropriate behaviours and activities for either sex are limiting their children's horizons and perpetuating gender bias and the idea that females are the weaker sex with limited capabilities. 

Select the right toys

Parents should select toys that require the child to sit still for a longer period of time. They should select toys that require greater sensory involvement, toys that require the use of touch, sight and hearing. The greater the sensory involvement, the greater the learning. Video games, for instance, instead of developing attention and concentration, only result in the fluctuation of attention and concentration. These games just have fast-moving images on a screen that requires no concentration or thinking. The child merely has to make mechanical actions. It's just for fun, there is no learning involved. First of all, the child has to focus its attention on the object. Whereas in toys like Ludo, Carrom, and Lego, a child has to think and use its imagination. 

Spend time with your child

Dr. Mehrotra says, "Parents should spend a lot of time with their children. They should not just give them toys, they should also play with them. There are age-appropriate toys available in the market. For instance, Lego is an excellent toy for developing attention and concentration. However, if you leave a child alone with a Lego set, he will probably just throw the pieces around, as he will not understand what he is supposed to do with them. Parents should demonstrate how to use Lego to their children and also show their keenness towards the toy. Another way in which parents can help is by helping their children to draw properly. Even that will help develop their attention and concentration and improve their perception skills. 

It is important that parents not just sit around and watch TV or entrust them to older siblings and expect their children to play on their own. Children need parental involvement and guidance."

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