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The power of waiting: Helping your child learn through play

November 26, 2021

Words by Dr Jacqui Barfoot

When we are worried about our child’s development, we often have a strong instinct to do more for them. We want to teach them more, show them more and get more involved with their learning.

It is normal to feel like this, especially when we want the best for them. But children actually do their best learning when they come up with their own play ideas — their brain does more firing and wiring when the idea comes from them.

In fact, when a child is finding something difficult, like talking, using their body or coming up with an idea, they can shut down more easily when a parent tries to get involved. Why? It is not the best feeling when we think we are not good at something, so when someone tries to get more involved with something we find hard, it is common to back away.

Space to play

The challenge is to give our children more space to come up with their own play ideas and more opportunities to practice showing us those ideas. The more times they show us what they can do, and the more times we delight in what they are doing, or put words to what they are doing, the better it starts to feel. And when things feel good, we usually want to do them again, and when we do them again, we get better at them.

The power of waiting

Children who are having difficulty with a part of their development find it hard to show their play ideas. As a result they end up having less opportunities to practice, when actually they need more opportunities to practice. So as parents or important adults in their lives, the best thing we can do is wait to see what they do and then respond to what they do. We call this active waiting.

It can feel strange, but doing less for our children actually helps them more. Of course, we often still feel the need to help, but the trick is helping just enough so your child does more and shows you their ideas. This is what helps them do their best learning, and this is what we call the power of waiting.

Are you interested in bringing the power of waiting and other parent-friendly ideas into action? Connect Play Learn will be launching in February 2022. If you’re keen to hear more and want to be first-in-line to check out this great new resource when it launches, please email [email protected]