What Parents can Learn from their Children’s Play

Did you know that your children can teach you just as much as you teach them? They may even teach you more than you teach them! We teach them to walk and talk and feed themselves. They teach us what it means to be patient and what unconditional love really is. I have also found that we can learn a lot from our children, and about them, by simply watching and listening to our children’s play.

I’ve mentioned before that I believe a child learns a lot through their play. They learn to problem solve, use their toys and items they find in new ways, and cooperate with others. Children need their free play time to use their imagination, to create, to explore the world, to learn what their bodies are capable of, and to relieve stress. In my home, I need their free play time to wash the dishes, fold some laundry, or vacuum!

Often while I’m doing my housework and my children are playing, I listen. Our home layout is such that I can easily hear them and often see them playing in their bedrooms, the living room, or in our backyard. While I listen I learn new things every day.

For example, today I realized that my kids do pay some attention during worship at church. While we’re there they can often be found chatting with the other kids or staring off into outer space. But when they play they often sing the songs that we sang at church the Sunday before, or favorites from many weeks ago. Music is something all my children love. Knowing that gives me a tool for calming them, motivating them, or redirecting them as needed.

young child playing a xylophone - children's play

I learned while watching my children’s play that my daughter is a natural leader. Other kids seem to flock to her and follow her direction, while not being afraid to express their ideas too. I can use that information in my parenting; to build her strengths and show her how to use them for God’s glory.

When listening to my older son play I learn that the 8 months of speech therapy really helped him improve the sounds he was struggling with before. We can understand him so much better now, which has improved his confidence in social scenarios.

From watching my youngest play, I’ve learned that he LOVES trucks and dogs. This information helps me to keep his attention during home preschool. Its fun when b is for bulldozer or we’re counting the spots on a dalmatian.

If you watch your children’s play you can learn a lot about them. Their personality traits, strengths and weaknesses, love language, fears, and favorite things. You can learn about what they know, or what they may have learned incorrectly. You will be able to see what they are physically capable of, and new skills that are blooming in this stage of their life. If they play house and pretend to be parents, you will hear them repeat the things you say to them and you’ll find out how they see you. The same can be said for other types of people or jobs. If they play police, grocery store, restaurant, school, veterinarians, grandparents, and so on, you’ll find out what they believe about the people they have interacted with and those kinds of jobs.

You can use all this information to encourage them, to know what you should be teaching your children next, and to reteach things they don’t understand yet. You may see the need to have discussions about interactions or prejudices that concern you. It will also be helpful to evaluate your parenting and discipline. You may need change some things to be more effective for each child. Knowledge is power!

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

What are some things your children have taught you? Do you make it a habit to watch or listen to your children’s play? Share with me in the comments!

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