A lot has been written about the importance of play for children, and how it encourages their development. (Fact: Healthy play in the first ten years of life is linked with everything from better self-control to deeper relationships in adulthood.) But truly connected play with your child – the kind you do together rather than just supervising - can also have benefits for adults.
Whether it’s reminding you of skills you have long forgotten or getting you out of your own head and into a more creative space, sharing play with children can be good for you too. Here are four life lessons I’ve learned from playing with my three-year-old.
Persistence pays off.
Even as an adult, learning to overcome failure is tough. I’ve lost count of how many hobbies I’ve adopted over the years, only to lose interest after realising I wasn’t immediately good at them. Since having kids, I’ve discovered that there is satisfaction in sticking with something and working towards becoming better at it.
If you’ve ever watched a kid learn to ride a bike, you’ll know they have resilience in spades – after a tumble, they get up and keep trying. Playing with my son reminds me that perseverance matters more than natural aptitude.
It’s okay to be yourself.
There is no greater gift you can give your child than to encourage them to be who they are. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about teaching my kid to embrace his identity, it’s by learning to explore the world through story-led play. An easy way to encourage this is by pulling out the LEGO DUPLO sets.
There is no wrong way to play with them, which allows them the freedom to express who they are and how they relate to the world. I’ve found that it’s in the pushing of these boundaries you can really learn about yourself.
Imagination creates reality.
Toddlers have incredible imaginations. For them, if something can be conceptualised, it can be real. And yes, we might be talking about reimagining a washing basket as a soccer goal, but there’s still a valuable lesson here.
After a few hours of playing with a child, you could come away questioning the way you see things in your own life. Being drawn into my son’s free thinking during playtime has been incredibly expansive for me. It’s made me question everything from what makes me happy to my definition of success.
Every child (and adult!) is an artist.
Think you’re not artistic? Spend an afternoon colouring with a toddler and you’ll discover that everyone has the capacity for self-expression. Unlike adults, kids create for the joy of it. My son is not worried about whether I can tell if his scribbles are a self-portrait – he creates with confidence and without expectation.
As a writer, I know too well the heavy feeling that comes with putting my work out there for the judgement of others. So on the days I feel insecure, I channel his wholesome self-belief and remember that each of us have our own artistic vision.
LEGO DUPLO is created to harness children's resilience, creativity and self-expression. Check out the full range here.