Expert Parenting Advice
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When your 3 year old is too busy to play...

Why "play" is the most important activity that your young child can do. And the difference between adult play and child play.

This morning, I was reading Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine.

The author, Michele Borba, works with children to teach them important skills like self-control, confidence, and empathy.

But one thing that she wrote stood out for me this morning. It is about her experiences working with a private school for 3 and 4 year olds:

The whole morning focused on teaching numbers and letters: no dress-up, finger painting, sandbox, or a chance to develop curiosity, self-confidence, empathy, or self-control. (“There isn’t time to teach ‘those,’” the head teacher told me. “We have to get kids ready for kindergarten.”) Every second was adult directed and academic driven.

Michele Borba - Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine

The fact that this head teacher really believed that 3 and 4 years old don't have time to play, because they need to prepare for kindergarten, just baffled me.

Because play is the way that kids learn, grow, and develop their abilities. Play is the way they explore and interact with the world.

As an adult, when you think about "play", you normally think about "wasting time" or not doing anything productive. But that meaning is not the same for children - play is in fact their most productive time.

When I interviewed Julie King, the best-selling co-author of How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen, she shared why she thinks being playful with your children is so important in order to connect with them and get them to cooperate:

It can calm their nervous system. It doesn't create the resistance that ordering them around can create. Kids love to play. That's sort of their language, right? That's what they want to do and that's how they learn.

Julie King

Play is the language of children. It is how they develop and learn. So becoming more playful with your children is like learning the language before visiting a foreign country - it just make the whole experience easier and more fun.

And luckily learning to be playful is much easier (and much more fun!) than learning a new language.

In fact, during our interview, Julie shared a very simple way to instantly become more playful with your children.

I have been using this technique daily since talking to her, and it is almost magical how well my kids respond to it. Even yesterday, when my daughter was in the middle of a emotional meltdown, using this technique almost instantly got her attention and calmed her down.