Discovering Treasures during the School-Aged Years

Discovering Treasures during the School-Aged Years

This warm summer weather is a lovely invitation to linger and enjoy the outdoors. What better way to unplug and connect with your child by inviting them to join you in an outdoor adventure? Hit up the playground, build some sand castles at the beach, or go for a bike ride with a surprise ice cream stop! Whatever suits your family’s interests, connecting with your child through playful outdoor activities can be a superb way to strengthen your emotional connection.

The research is clear; free play helps build a child’s imaginative play skills, which can boost brain development in a variety of ways. Social problem-solving, self-regulation, executive function and language development are all areas of a child’s cognitive development that can be strengthened through regular unstructured play experiences. The health benefits of outdoor physical play are also well documented. As parents, we tend to know these things intuitively.

But regularly playing with your child in an unstructured way can also benefit your relationship and strengthen the emotional connection between you and your child. Children need to feel connected to their ‘big people’ in order to thrive and be able to do all the work of growing up. Life can be so full of distractions and a sense of busy-ness, so it is important to remember that the onus remains with us as parents to re-collect our child to maintain our emotional connection. Recollecting just means getting our child’s attention in a loving way.

The best way to invite your child into a playful experience is to focus your attention exclusively on them. Unplug the electronics and take a break from the screens. Pre-empt your child and surprise them with the invitation to spend some quality time together. Maybe it’s going for a nature walk, or a picnic in the backyard. Display empathy to your child by meeting them where they are at emotionally. If they are tired from a day at camp, perhaps they need some downtime on the couch with you beside them before you can transition into a playful activity. Laughter, a sense of playfulness and warmth are all ingredients for building and strengthening the relationship with your child. The relaxed pace of the summer months can be the perfect reason for exploring new ways of bonding with your growing loves so get outside and have some fun!

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