Children need to hear us say “come play!” instead of “go play!”
However, playing doesn’t have to be any of the above. Games are neither futile nor useful. They are both superficial and serious at the same time.
Play is indispensable for children
As they play, children learn and develop. They need to play. They don’t do this just to kill time or distract themselves until they reach the age when they can finally move on to more serious activities. Children play because this is how they learn about themselves and the world. Games completely consume them, focusing their attention and monopolizing their energy. Being totally consumed by a game is a privilege of early childhood, but it can go beyond this period and this is something that should make you rejoice!
To know how to play well – to truly play – is a great talent, not only for young children, but also for their elder siblings … and their parents. For you should not merely respect the need of children to play, you should also play with them.
Playing to better develop!
We often wrongly attribute more importance to school work and “practical” skills (such as making the bed, tidying up, washing, etc) than to games. Playing is a state of mind. In playing with your children, instead of merely teaching them practical skills, you allow them to develop. It requires that you set aside some free time. It is a time to nurture a relationship with your children for the sheer pleasure of spending time together with them.
Through games you can help them learn how to get rid of this or that little or big character flaw: how to win and lose gracefully, to focus, to be patient and wait their turn, to be a team player, to share their victory with others. What’s more, while playing your children might discover that daddy knows how to jump rope and mommy does not hide well when playing hide and seek. All of the above are not just potentially unforgettable memories, but offer many occasions for growth and progress.
How do games relate to learning about the Faith?
Parents who take their time to pray together with their children, to have them learn the Word of God, to have them experience the sacraments of the Church and receive solid catechetical foundation, but who do not believe that it is necessary to play with them, do not understand the full scope of their mission as Christian educators. It is true that faith is not a game, but it is connected. Like games, faith has no practical purpose in terms of profitability or efficiency. Also, it requires that we become completely involved in it, because to have saints, God needs wholesome individuals.
Our duty as parents is to help our children grow so that the graces they have been endowed with can fully blossom. Let us take time to play with our children, knowing full well that what matters most is not so much what we play, but how we play it.
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