My daughter's lessons on how to play with a preschooler

When my daughter was first born, I was sure that I could be a good parent. I mean, what was so hard? Feed the child, teach what is right and wrong and play with her.

Well, aside from the feeding problems to everything else, playing with her properly posed a completely different set of problems that I never anticipated.

At first, I let her play on her on and joined in as I understood that an infant couldn't understand me or the rules of games or how exactly a toy was supposed to be used.

But as she became a toddler, I found myself interrupting her play often to tell her how she had the 'wrong' idea on how to play with a toy or a game. I started to explain to her how she should be playing with a particular toy or going over the rules of a game again and again.

As you can imagine, this started to irritate her, though she didn't put it that way. And I, in turn, started to get frustrated with her for not understanding the rules of a game or how a toy was designed. It seemed that the purposes of these toys and games were so obvious that it boggled my mind.

Then as she became a preschooler and I became a father of two, I began to see what I was doing wrong (doing research for this site also helped a lot).

I realized that with my second daughter, I was being a good playmate largely because I was doing what she wanted to do with a toy.

So on a hunch, I decided to let go of my ideas on how things should be and follow my first daughter's lead on how she wanted to play.

The difference in her response was amazing. Children, unlike adults, don't seem to hold grudges and she opened up immediately to this idea and had no problems in telling me how I should play with a particular toy (I am still working on the game thing).

I let her direct where the play was going to go. I followed her 'rules' of what a toy could do and what it was going to be used for. And when I did, I found myself freed from frustration and actually enjoying my play time with her a lot more.

Letting go of control has been one of the smartest things I did when it comes to my relationship with my first daughter. It allows me to become more actively involved in her world and for me to learn about her as a person.

Of course, it doesn't mean that things are always rosy, but on average, things are much better and the future is looking brighter.

Sometimes, she'll just want me to keep her company (though not playing with her), and sometimes she'll want me to actively play with her. Other times, she'll want me to entertain her (e.g., acting goofy or putting on a puppet show).

Whatever it is that she wants, I try to let her decide and follow her lead. But of course, I watch what I say and do so that she doesn't get the wrong idea that she can do whatever she wants all the time with others.

There definitely has to a line drawn and kids have to learn that those lines can't be crossed.

But my most important lesson was that until the line, she's free to do try different things and should be encouraged to try them and to step out of her own comfort zone.

I learned that it is my job as a parent to let her experiment and not to try and conform her to what I think is right or how I think things should be done.

With that being said, now go try it for yourself (but don't just listen to me, think about it and try it only if it makes sense for you).

Oh, and one more thing...

Remember that the whole point of the play thing is to have fun.

"education at play"

Return from Playing with a child to BuddingScholars homepage