Wise up to the benefits of playing vigorously. Plus, get expert advice on how your kids can horse around safely…

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Playtime is essential for your toddler’s development. Yet, this may sometimes seem to get out of hand when the little ones push, wrestle and tickle each other.

Indeed, there are many benefits to rough-and-tumble play. Dr Vaani Gunaseelan, a clinical psychologist at Think Psychological Services, says that your child…

* Improves their gross motor skills, body strength and control and hand-eye coordination.

* Builds their self-control, social skills and emotional intelligence.

* Learns how to read other’s body language, so as to plan their next move.

* Learns about personal boundaries.

* Builds stronger bonds with you as the closeness you both feel when you roughhouse causes your bodies to release oxytocin, a hormone that improves bonding.

“If appropriate ground rules are set and aggressive behaviours are disapproved, your child will learn that aggression is not condoned.”

Yet, many parents fear that allowing such boisterous behaviour during playtime may cause your tyke to think it’s acceptable to be aggressive. Dr Vaani says you can avoid such problems as long as you set proper ground rules.

With these rules, your child should be able to differentiate between horseplay and aggression. Roughhousing is usually a fun experience for everyone, while aggression usually ends with someone getting injured or emotionally hurt. Dr Vaani notes, “If appropriate ground rules are set and aggressive behaviours are disapproved, your child will learn that aggression is not condoned.”

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Don’t exclude your daughters from rowdy play just because it seems uncouth for them to do so. Some girls prefer rough play, just as certain boys prefer less vigorous activities, Dr Vaani states. “It depends on the temperament and preference of your child more than your child’s gender.”

What’s most important is to support your child’s preference, she advises. “Some children prefer more gentle games like board games or jigsaw puzzles, and if you push them into rough play, they might find it too frightening or overwhelming. Kids who are more energetic and adventurous tend to prefer rough play.”

Dr Vaani spells out simple rules, so that everyone stays safe during rough-and-tumble play:

1. Set limits on what is okay and what is not As with any playtime activity, begin by making sure everyone follows the ground rules that have been set. Make sure everyone involved in the activity have a say on what is acceptable to them and what isn’t. Remember, physical aggression usually leaves another party in tears. Dr Vaani advises, “Teach them that if they see the other person or child in distress — for instance, crying or frowning — it is no longer considered to be play and they need to stop.”

2. Make sure to play where there’s enough space for everyone Be sure to watch out for hazards in the surroundings — especially fragile items — so that your child doesn’t get injured accidentally or break any valuables.

Playtime is supposed to be fun and for building memories, not to cause undue stress — or worse, emotional trauma.

3. Start small Dr Vaani advises, “Ensure that the types of activities you choose do not exert too much pressure on the child, especially on young children whose bodies are physically vulnerable.” Always start gently and moderate your strength, so you are familiar with your child’s level of comfort. You don’t want them to end up in tears and decide not to play with you again. Also, remember not to tease them for crying. Playtime is supposed to be fun and for building memories, not to cause undue stress — or worse, emotional trauma.

4. The rules apply to adults as well The rules you have all agreed on applies to everyone who’s playing — that includes you. Dr Vaani explains that adults should follow the rules, so that your tyke is able to observe what appropriate play is.

Photos: iStock

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