Family Life


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Let your child play without boundaries

Boy playing with marker - let your child play without boundariesThe 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.

a man carrying two children

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