Several statements about parenting are overused, but if considered they can sink deep and make you a more purposeful parent.

The statement, “Play is a child’s work” is frequently used. Nevertheless, the truth of the comment can be understated. Children learn through their play. The learning spans a broad spectrum, including social and emotional learning and development of relationships with parents, siblings, other children and adult caregivers. Training children to remain in a passive role, such as by watching television for extended periods of time, hinders their ability to make choices and purposeful movements.Active play needs to be a regular part of each child’s day.

Another true statement that is commonly used is “Parents are the child’s first teachers.” The rhythm of the parent-child relationship established at birth will continue and develop through childhood. Building on the established bond and trust between the child and the parent, optimal learning is able to happen.

Each child’s ability to relate to parents and then others will increase at a steady rate if the parent takes one-on-one time to play with the child. A young child who is still learning to talk can connect to the parent through a variety of avenues: visual, auditory, even eye-contact and facial expressions. Through these connections, the child learns basic trust that will grow and help in relationships throughout the child’s lifetime.

Children learn from their parents whether the parents are purposefully teaching or not. They will pick up on even the most subtle parental behaviors and mimic those. Therefore, each parent constantly needs to be aware of the parent’s role as a teacher. Make the playtime fun for both of you, or else your child will pick up on your disinterest.

A third statement that is often used in parenting is “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” We look in the mirror one day and see our parents! We often parent as we were parented. Therefore, be aware of NOT falling into the same mistakes; but instead, become more purposeful about those ways of your parents that were positive and seek help not to repeat negative parental behaviors. There is always room for improvement, but we have to be very conscious.

It is important to make your play times with your child time intentional and your activities flexible. With elementary age children and older, plan a 20 minute time to be together, and then let them pick the activity. Often this designated time will become a highlight of the day for both the child and the parent because it will deepen the trust and the relationship.