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Creative ways to play with your child

Having fun with your little ones

A mom can only run toy cars around in circles so many times before she goes a little crazy, and there are other ways to play with your child beyond arts and crafts and countless rounds of Go Fish.

Play for most children is innate, something they love to do with others, whether it's a parent, friend or classmate.

It's so important for a parent and their child to find something that interests both of them when it comes to play. This way, it is not only more enjoyable for both parties, but can be a learning experience for your child, as well as prime bonding time.

Play should be a mixture of many facets which can include some form of physical activity, cards, board games, technology, painting or a new hobby that both parent and child would enjoy.

Today's digital world is filled with high-tech toys and gaming systems, and as a result, imaginative play is becoming extinct. Lee Knowlton, CEO of Pump It Up, the nation's leader in the active children's party industry has offered the following five tips to help parents evoke their children's imaginations:

1

Focus on props

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on the latest entertainment system, gadget or toy, visit your local resale or costume shop. Keep a trunk filled with dress-up clothes, hats, fashion jewelry, masks and other props that kids can choose from for inventive play.

2

Take advantage of the great outdoors

Show your child how a stick can become a fairy's wand or a pirate's sword. Talk about how the local park or forest can be their castle or secret kingdom.

3

Give them some space

It may seem difficult, but try to give your children at least an hour or more of uninterrupted time each day when they can let their minds run free.

4

Read together

Books can spur a child's imagination, introduce them to new concepts and environments, and inspire them to think about things in a new way.

5

Yes, they should talk to themselves

It's OK if your child has an imaginary friend or talk to themselves — it's actually great. Listen to what types of things they are saying and chime in to the conversation when appropriate.

Parents need to stop stressing about what to play or how they are playing and just realize any way you play is OK. Kids just want to be with their parents. Even walking around your neighborhood and looking for rocks and leaves — anything can be a way to connect and bond.

Before you beat yourself up too much about how much or how little you play with your child, remember this: According to Dr. Lawrence Mestyanek, founder of TAG Toys and renowned expert in early childhood development and education, "Kids actually need time to play, independently. It builds personal creativity skills, it helps them work through personal problems and it gives them confidence and a taste of freedom. Parents who are struggling to keep their interest in basic play activities might be pleased to learn that there are very real benefits to independent childhood playtime, which among other things can actually help improve relationships and open new channels of family communication."

Childhood is all about play and it should be fun for both parent and child alike!

More on children's playtime

Help your kids play independently
Creative everyday play ideas for kids

Signs your preschooler needs more playtime

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