Let your child play without boundaries

By Amanda Bloye on April 19, 2013
The time you spend playing with your children is just as important as those moments of discipline and structure. Yet, it can be difficult to remember what it was like to play without boundaries, to explore. This can result in wanting to control how your child plays. New research shows that adding structure to playtime can actually hinder your child’s imagination.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that the more mothers direct their children’s play, the less engaged the children are. These children were also more likely to display negative emotion toward their mothers. “Children flourish when they have opportunities to make choices about what they do, particularly in play situations,” says Jean Ispa, lead author of the study and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at MU. “In our study, the children were playing with some toys, and the very directive mothers were making decisions about how to play, what to play and how quickly to play.”

These moms had difficulty letting their children play outside the box. They instructed their toddler to put the cow through the barn door if they put it through the window or not to touch the burners in the pretend kitchen set. Jean says, “These mothers often think they are helping their children by correcting them, but they’re actually limiting the children’s creativity.”

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May/June 2013.

By Amanda Bloye| April 19, 2013

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