As a parent, watching your kids play can be a joy. They get to use their imagination and come up with beautiful stories and ideas, and playtime’s innocence makes it peaceful. You could also benefit yourself and your child by getting down to their level and joining in on their playtime activities as often as possible.
Mental Health Benefits of Playtime With Your Kids
Partaking in playtime alongside your kids can boost their mental health and your own. If you have a neurodivergent child, playing with them can be fantastic for their growth and development as you help them learn, focus, and have fun.
Let’s take a closer look at the mental health benefits of playtime with your kids and some fun and beneficial activities you can do together.
How Play Boosts Mental Health
When it comes to kids, most children pick up on the idea of playing early. Even many children with autism and other neurodivergent traits often play in their way or may have specific toys or games they enjoy. There are countless mental health benefits to the act of the play, including:
- Stress relief;
- Improved concentration;
- Boosted self-confidence;
- Feelings of joy.
Play is also a fantastic way for children to develop social and emotional skills. As an adult, there are more benefits of joining in play than you might realize! Studies have shown that play helps to reduce stress, improve brain function, and boost creativity in adults. It can also strengthen relationships and give you a boost of energy.
If you want to encourage these benefits of playtime in your children, make sure to make the most of what you have. Use household items to spark imagination, and nurture them with nature walks for an even greater mental health boost. Let your child lead as much as possible, and praise their good behavior and creativity.
How Play Helps Neurodivergent Kids Develop Healthy Skills
Playtime is essential for every child. If your child is on the spectrum, however, it’s even more essential for them to develop valuable skills — and have fun doing it. Neurodivergent children have brains that work a bit differently. That can affect their behaviors and how they process things.
Once upon a time, neurodivergence was associated mainly with autism. It covers conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, and Development Coordination Disorder.
If your child is neurodivergent, you understand their strengths and challenges better than anyone. Catering their playtime toward those strengths and creating a smooth transition each day from learning to playing can help with various necessary skills. Not only will it boost their confidence, but it can help to prepare them for many situations in the “real world.”
Some children on the spectrum have difficulty playing the way you might think of as “normal.” They might struggle with challenges like:
- A lack of imitation skills;
- A lack of symbolic play skills;
- Less social communication skills;
- Limited joint attention skills.
Teaching your neurodivergent child different forms of play can improve your relationship, teach them more vital communication skills, and help them improve their emotional expression.
Making the Most of Playtime Together
Again, you know your child better than anyone. Playtime should cater to their strengths and provide them with fun challenges to help them grow and learn.
Several effective ways to teach play skills to your child on the spectrum, starting with getting down to their level. This is often referred to as the “Floortime Method.” It’s a relationship-based play therapy that can improve your relationship with your child.
From there, focus on your child’s interests. For example, if they tend to love playing with electronics, understand that not all screen time for kids is bad. Neurodivergent children can benefit from certain apps that boost language and communicative skills. However, ensure you allow screen time in waves rather than handing your child a phone or tablet all day.
Other tips for making the most of playtime together include:
- Choosing activities that aren’t too difficult for your child;
- Keeping things short;
- Redirecting inappropriate play or behaviors.
Activities like sensory bottles or boxes, smelling games, coin rubbing, or jewelry threading are all fantastic activities for neurodivergent kids. They’ll have fun, get to be creative, and build specific skills that can help both their physical and mental development.
Try to limit the distractions around you when you’re playing with your child. This will help you stay focused and make it easier for you to encourage your child to play. They should lead playtime, and you should support their actions. However, it can sometimes take a little guidance, so ensure you are attentive and involved.
Mental Health Benefits of Playtime With Your Kids
It’s also essential to reward your child for play. While that might sound a bit strange initially, remember that focusing on something — even something entertaining — for any length of time can be difficult for some neurodivergent kids. Rewarding them with something they love affirms the action, and they’ll be more likely to do it again.
As you can see, playtime is essential for everyone, no matter your age or any special needs you might have. Don’t be afraid to get on your child’s level and enjoy the innocence and simplicity of playing with them daily.