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Connecting with your child through play


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You’ve picked the kids up from nursery or school, made dinner, run a bath, had a quick tidy up and before long it’s time for bed, so it’s not surprising that at the end of a long day many of us are struggling to find enough one-on-one time to spend with our children.

Working guilt

Whether it’s reading a book or starting up a conversation, the average parent has just 30 minutes a day to devote entirely to their child, according to a recent study. However, somewhat reassuring for guilt-ridden parents, experts believe just 12 minutes a day can actually be enough for us to fully connect with our child.

The Ribena-commissioned study, based on the thoughts of 2,000 British parents of 3 to 18 year-olds, revealed that six out of 10 fathers and four out of 10 mothers play with their child for less than five hours a week, despite the fact that only one in 10 children is happiest when playing alone.

Dad playing with his son

Juggling work and play

It can be hard to think of new and imaginative ideas when it comes to playing with your child and all too tempting to put them in front of the TV, but there are a number of benefits to parents who involve themselves in play or reading.

Firstly, it shows your children how important that they are to you, helps them feel connected, special and self confident. More importantly, it gives them all those happy childhood memories that you will share together for years to come.

Spending time with your child doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money – it’s the everyday time that you’re investing in that will make a real difference as well as letting them know that you will always have time to listen to them.

Reading to your child

Reading together is one of the easiest ways of connecting with your child and can be done in a number of ways – even 10 minutes a day can make a difference. Whether you’re reading books, magazines, newspapers or road signs you see on the way to school, it’s important to make sure that your child reads something every day.

Ideas to get you started

• Make your reading session interactive; get them to point out things they can see on the page, ask them to find words that begin with a certain letter, count numbers and talk about colours.

• Ask them to read to you – even if they can’t read get them to make up a story as they go along and to tell you when it’s the right time to turn the page.

• Use a picture dictionary when you come across a word they don’t understand to help them visualise and connect words with pictures.

• Come up with funny voices for different characters to bring the story to life.

Time with babies and toddlers

Half an hour of dedicated time with their kids can sound a lot and younger siblings often get left behind, especially if you’re juggling a large family, chores, work and other commitments. But it’s important to remember that you don’t need to cover half an hour in one go and that it can be done throughout the day.

Ideas to get you started

• Talk to your baby about what they are wearing each day.

• When you change their nappy or give them a bath, sing a song using sign language. You can learn this from books or by joining up to a class in your area.

• Point out things you can see out of their bedroom window and do this every morning when they wake up: houses, birds, trees, planes, and so on.

• Count the stairs each time you go upstairs – this will help them to learn numbers.

mum play with daughtersTwelve Minute Manual

Psychologists have come up with the Ribena Plus Twelve Minute Manual to help busy parents – a booklet of 30 fun things to do with your kids to help reconnect with them. They also suggest these open-ended questions to help you find out about your child’s day:

Age 3 – 4 years

– What are the names of the toys you played with today?

– Who is taller – mummy or your teacher?

– Tell me about the best game you played today…

Age 4 – 8 years

– Can you act out what you did at breaktime?

– Give you three guesses what I did today!

– How many times have you smiled today – what made you laugh?

Age 8 – 14 years

– I’ve got a great story for you but I want one in return… you first!

– Tell me some school gossip… I’m all ears!

– What science project are you doing at the moment and can I help with it?

– Where are you off to with your friends this week?

We asked mum of three, Samantha Bailey to ask her 3 year-old Ben the questions suggested above. Here’s how it went…

What are the names of the toys you played with today?

I made a bridge out of a tea tray and cups and then I used my cars to go under the bridge and over the bridge.

Who is taller, your mummy or your teacher?

Mummy is taller than daddy!

Tell me about the best game you played today

I built a tower out of bricks with Reesa and we found a frog in the garden and it jumped!






About Julia Faulks

About Julia Faulks

Julia Faulks is a content editor and journalist with 11 years' experience writing and subbing editorial for a number of publications. Now a mother herself, she has turned her hand to writing content for parents as well as young people and likes nothing more than turning long and complicated copy into something that everyone can understand.

Website: Julia Faulks

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