Parenting: Playing with mommy

September 16, 2011

I picked her up from preschool, took her to a nearby restaurant for an "al fresco" lunch. Then, we went to a gym for youngsters for a gymnastics class. She's taken sports classes with her big brother, Luke, there recently.

I thought it would be a thrill for her to take a gymnastics class with other girls her age, while I watched through the lobby window with all the other moms. My normally outgoing little girl became very withdrawn and wouldn't participate despite the teacher's gentle urging. I finally went into the gym and helped Emma through the exercises. But, whenever I would try to step away, Emma would come running to grab my hand. This is something I expected when Emma was two, but not at this age when she seems to pride herself with her independence and being a "big girl."

After the unsuccessful class, the teacher suggested I try Emma in a sports class another day that one of her friends is taking. When I asked Emma if she would want to give that class a try, she replied, "Mommy, I just want to play with you!"

Enough said!

I thought a gymnastics class would be a great skill-building activity. Child psychologists say this type of "structured play" can introduce children to new ideas and help develop social skills. However, an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report states that providing too much structured play eliminates time for free, child-centered play.

"The decrease in time allotted for free play interferes in the developmental benefits of unstructured play such as creativity, imagination, decision-making and the development of overall emotional, cognitive and physical strength", according to the AAP.

So, until Emma tells me she wants to rejoin a child's gym class, we are just playing at home. After all, Emma learns plenty of social skills in preschool. And, in a two years, Emma will be in full-day kindergarten. When that happens, my time with her will be very limited. So, for now, I'm trying to get as much quality time with her as possible. And, is she says that all she wants to do is play with mommy, who am I do argue!

Happy parenting!


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