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  • Dr. Amber Ufford

How to Build Connection with Your Child - Part 1

Can playing with your child really strengthen your relationship with them? Keep reading for more information on why play is important in child development and in building connection with your child.

It seems everywhere parents look these days there are messages about gentle parenting. With the recent popularity of gentle parenting, it’s become clear that one of the best ways to have a better relationship with your child and reduce unwanted behavior problems is to build connection with them.

You may often see parenting coaches and therapists encouraging parents to find ways to connect with their children through play. And this is great advice! But what so many of these well-meaning Instagram posts and bloggers forget to explain exactly how to play in a way that promotes connection.

And that's just what I want to do!

"Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning." Fred Rogers, American television personality, 1928 - 2003

Before we get into the how, let’s review why play is important for children.

  • Play stimulates early childhood brain development. Through play, children interact with and engage in the world around them. Even young babies benefit from play, learning concepts such as cause and effect, gravity, and sequencing.

  • Play allows children to face fears and process big emotions, especially through imaginative play.

  • Children master new skills and explore routines through play, leading to increased confidence and autonomy.

  • Playing with peers and siblings provides opportunities to learn important social skills such as turn taking, negotiation, cooperation, conflict resolution, perspective taking, and self-advocacy.

  • Unstructured and active play allows children to learn to take risks, experiment, and test boundaries, developing bravery, self-control, and endurance.

  • Child-directed play allows children to think creatively, practice decision-making skills, and even self-soothe.

Turns out your child is doing a whole lot more than just having fun!

"Play is the work of the child." Maria Montessori, Italian physician, 1870 - 1952

It’s clear that playing isn’t just fun for children – it’s brain-building work! But it doesn’t just stop there. Playing with your child has many benefits, too.

  • Play promotes communication, vocabulary, and language skills.

  • Children benefit from watching their parents model problem-solving and emotion regulation skills through play.

  • Parents can benefit from the chance to be silly and creative.

  • Parent-child play promotes appreciation and nurturance in the relationship.

  • Play allows parents and caregivers to see the world through their child’s eyes, setting the stage for deeper connection.

  • Joining in child-directed play fosters trust in the relationship and strengthens a sense of safety for the child.

In short, playing with your child is one of the best ways to build a better connection with them. Stay tuned to learn how to play and make the most of this special time with your child.

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