When I was pregnant with my first child and learned I would be having a daughter, I made a few very important promises to both myself and my unborn little girl. I first vowed to teach her how to become self-sufficient in hopes she would never put herself in a situation where she had to stay with someone harmful or abusive due to financial or emotional dependency. I then pledged to raise her to know that women can do absolutely anything a man can do, and finally, I also felt it was important to ingrain in her that the beauty standards placed on women by the media are often unhealthy and unattainable. After making this vital lineup, I quickly realized each of these goals could be reached simply by ensuring she had great self-esteem. I set out on my journey of motherhood with a sense of inner peace and a lot of determination. Once my daughter entered her toddler years, I started to truly realize how important simple play could be. I spent many afternoons watching her discover the world around her and learn to communicate with others through different types of play. It truly made my heart sing, and by this time, I was pregnant again, with yet another little girl, so my desire to instill a strong sense of self-worth in my sweet girls only heightened with the birth of my second daughter. Since play creates constant opportunities for inner growth, and pretend play was something in particular that both of my daughters have enjoyed for as long as I remember, it was greatly encouraged around our home. We had everything from a play kitchen, shopping cart and an array of fake food, to toy doctor kits and a ton of dress up outfits. They could be anything they wanted to be, right in the comfort of their own home. My how they grow! My daughters will be turning eight and ten in just a few months, but that hasn't stopped them from taking some free time to enjoy moments of pretend play. They especially love dolls and their collection of Groovy Girls is growing rapidly! Groovy Girls are colorful characters that encourage girls to develop a sense of self-identity and individualism. They will also celebrate their Sweet 16th Birthday this year and I especially love them since they encourage personal style, diversity, and the power of friendship. Due to increasing technology, imaginary play seems to have really taken a dive. Since children learn and express what they feel and understand about their world through complex action during play and take on intricate role playing, it is more important than ever before that we keep play alive! Below are some key tips on how to encourage play and self-esteem in your home.
· There will certainly be many occasions where you have a limited amount of time for your child to play, but do your best to also create special play times when you can tell your child they don't have to hurry or clean up right away
· Talk with your children about their play. Let them share what they're doing from their point of view and respect them by listening
· Play with them so they see and know how much you value play
· Get involved in providing suggestions, activities, ingredients, props, and ideas
· Control television watching and technological toys
· Walk outside often, play in nature, explore, ramble and swim together
· Never underestimate the power of music to relax and teach your child