Playing with children of all ages is vital to their social, cognitive and moral development. Any break you can get in the hustle and bustle of busy 21st century work schedules should be dedicated to playing with your children. Doctors across the world consistently state that children require plenty of playtime and limited hours in front of the television for healthy development and social enrichment, according to CNN.
The problem is how to maximize that time and make it positive for all parties involved. Never fear, the Marine Corps is here with training that can be applied to this important activity:
Step One: Assess the situation
Select an appropriate place to play. Indoor and outdoor environments should always be assessed for safety and control. For outdoor activities, carry out the following:
- secure fences and secured gates to keep your child in the play zone and roaming, unwelcome animals out
- Be cognizant of ant hills, be hives or other fortresses of pesky invaders that may harm your child’s play experience
- Flat, open spaces with age appropriate toys or jungle gyms are a must
Step Two: Gear check
The old saying goes – never bring a knife to a gun fight. The same applies to playtime. There’s no need for 782 gear for ring around the rosie. However, a tent makes for great hide and seek.
Ultimately, gear checks are for environmental preparation. Make sure your child is properly protected from the harsh elements of your region. If its raining, place you child in a raincoat and boots. If there’s snow on the ground, snow suits, mittens and snow boots are priority. If its summer and the sun is out in full force, cover you and your child in suncreen. (Interesting fact: you can be punished in the military for not protecting your skin from sunburn – you are sort of government property at that point and your mission effectiveness diminishes if you don’t protect your body.)
Step Three: Have a plan and a backup plan
You may have the best plans ever for a fun day at the park when you find your drop zone is under construction or overtaken by significantly older children. Having a plan B is crucial in this process.
Step Four: Execute the mission… and have fun!
Get to it and spend some positive, quality time with your child. Get off your rocker and be active with them! This is no time for smoking and joking with another adult! This is no time for texting your buddy!b In the military, you risk lives and the mission if your attention is elsewhere. This is bonding time and should be kept sacred! There’s always a need for a spotter on a new jungle gym, a referee or evil mastermind who plans to take over the world. Just remember that your child is the hero or heroine!
Step Five: Debrief the mission
Always end the activity on a positive note for you and your child. Avoid ending the time abruptly and build in a transition. Have some of your child’s favorite snacks or drinks with you in your gear and something for you. Remember that playtime is hard, physical work and requires recovery and cool down for both of you.
Enjoy the experience and plan for another one in short order. This isn’t a one shot deal. Just like military service, your child’s time as a kid will fly away faster than your think.
That’s an order!