Q: I really don’t enjoy sitting down on the floor and playing dinosaurs, cars and dolls with my four-year-old — I get distracted and think about all the things I should be doing around the house. I feel guilty about this and worry I’m letting my child down.
A: It’s very common to feel it’s more important to get your to-do list done than to spend time playing. However, play is the primary language that young children use to express their inner worlds — their thoughts, feelings, motivations and intentions. When you play together, your child feels an enhanced connection with you because it allows a shared focus and experience of emotions, all within the safety and fun of the pretend context. Through play, you’ll also be giving your child the opportunity to learn to take another’s point of view, thereby supporting the development of empathy. Playing with your child will advance her social skills and language development.
The trick is to find a balance: Get into play when you can and you’ll gain wonderful insights on your child and strengthen your bond. But don’t force it, and give yourself permission to take a break. Fill the gap with playdates or find a sitter or older child who will play with your little one.
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