On average, children currently have fewer siblings and a smaller extended family than previous generations. The traditional family set up has also changed, with more working mothers, more single-parent households, and an increased likelihood of extended family members living further away. Though it can sometimes be difficult, it is important to try to give children opportunities to play with the whole family including, grandparents, parents and siblings. Generations can learn a lot by playing with each other as it can help to improve social and communication skills – which is important for the whole family.
Play is particularly beneficial for children when it’s undirected, but children can also gain a lot when adults take an active role in play. Children’s play changes when it is intergenerational and research shows that children display higher levels of language and problem solving skills when they have lots of contact with adults. Intergenerational play also shifts play from being a competitive activity to a more playful one.
|Importantly of course, it is not only children who benefit from play! Research shows that play is especially good for the elderly: it promotes relaxation, reduces stress and helps to maintain cognitive skills such as memory and problem solving. Furthermore, active play helps to increase muscle tone, co-ordination and reaction time. People who exercise regularly in middle age are one-third less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease in their 70s than those who do not exercise. It is also the ideal setting for the family to bond with each other.Remember, ‘make-believe’ is one form of play where adults can, if they want, effortlessly influence the development of a child’s social and moral values, through encouraging co-operation, honesty and learning to be a good loser as well as a good winner. It is also a great way of helping language development!