It’s one of 2020’s great ironies: As families, we’re all spending more time together than ever – but, between juggling work, virtual learning and old-fashioned cabin fever, it’s probably not exactly what you’d call “quality time.” (But the way you chaired a conference call while explaining geometry and serving imaginary cake at a tea party *was* impressive. Hats off to you.)
That’s why it’s more important than ever to maximize the dedicated time you do have with your children – especially since we know how important play can be for children’s social, emotional and learning development. As parents, when “the days are long, but the years are short,” it’s hard to find ways to pour everything into this fleeting stage of our children’s lives.
That’s why we’ve put together five ways to make sure you’re getting the most out of playtime with your little person – and, you know, having a little fun yourself along the way
#1. Encourage imaginative play
Sometimes called “make believe,” imaginative play is a crucial way for young children to explore their creativity, while practicing things like speech and social skills. As a parent, you can foster your child’s inner world by giving them the tools to create little universes. An excellent place to start is the world of PLAYMOBIL®, known for their sets and figures that encourage imagination, and are designed to create an endless array of storytelling possibilities for your child to explore. You can facilitate their imaginative play by asking lots of open-ended questions, like “Tell me about what these characters are doing?” and “How could we fix this problem?” or “Why is that character feeling that way?”
#2 Tap into your own “inner child”
We might not always admit it but sometimes playing with your child can be, well, a bit boring. That’s why it’s important to engage with playtime in ways that are stimulating to both of you. One way is to follow the rules of improv: When you’re talking your child’s imaginative play story through with them, remember to never say “no” to an idea, but always build on it, however crazy it may sound! A fun way to stimulate your own creativity is to find toys that you connect with as a grown up – which is why we love PLAYMOBIL®’s newest sets. Both the SCOOBY-DOO™ theme and the Back To The Future sets will take you right back to your own childhood – hello, time-travelling DeLorean – and, as an added bonus, PLAYMOBIL®’s signature attention-to-detail is so spot on you might be tempted to keep them for yourself as collector’s items.
#3 Keep it interesting – for both of you
As any parent knows, children can sometimes be repetitive in their play, telling the same story over and over. This is actually totally normal and represents their way of processing the world. You can switch it up, however, by adding in new toys for them to role-play with. For example, if you had the new PLAYMOBIL® SCOOBY-DOO™ “Adventure in the Mystery Mansion” set, you and your child could play for a while (there are stairs that turn into a slide!), but then maybe introduce a new element – like the SCOOBY-DOO™ Mystery Machine – to encourage the universe to go in a whole new direction. (Note: If you have two children, taking turns is something they learn with imaginative play – and trust us when we say there will be competition to “drive” that Mystery Mobile!)
#4 Make it a date
Children learn best when they have long, uninterrupted periods in which to play – something that can be hard to facilitate when you’re an adult being pulled in 50 directions. To make sure you have this time to set aside, schedule playtime like you would any other meeting or appointment. Having this dedicated hour or two is also a great way to encourage a child who might be a bit all over the place. Kids will always engage if given the time, so do your part as a parent by creating a distraction-free space (no TV in the background, no phone in your hand) where you two can play together.
#5 Let their imagination run wild
One of the great things about a tool like PLAYMOBIL® is that they become whatever your child’s imagination makes them. Sure, you can get your 80’s kid on and re-enact the whole Back To The Future plot, but your child can also take, say that Marty McFly figure and have him go on an adventure with Dr. Emmett Brown to have dinner at Shaggy’s house. (The pizza and hot dogs in that SCOOBY-DOO™ set look mouth-wateringly realistic.) You can also add in neutral elements – like plain wooden blocks, or things around the house like plastic cups or even toilet paper rolls – to really stretch their imagination beyond what they can see in front of them.