It’s simple…when you’re doing something meaningful or joyful with your child, you’re engaged in We Time. Your child feels important and loved, having your undivided attention. Meanwhile, you’re getting to know your child better while showing him or her your love. And that’s not even the half of it! Read on to discover some of the surprising benefits We Time provides.
Five benefits of We Time
1. Relieving stress
Taking your child to the playground or park supports physical activity for you both. Such activity helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression and improves everyone’s mood and well-being. Even before your child can walk or climb, he or she can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. By 7 months of age, a child’s arm, neck, and back muscles typically are strong enough to allow him or her to sit comfortably in a bucket swing with you pushing.
Snuggling with your child and reading a book together is another great way to relieve stress. According to the University of Minnesota, “Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors.” Pick something you’ll enjoy reading aloud. Children younger than 6 months of age won’t understand the words, and instead will be soothed by the rhythm and patterns of your speech.
2. Staying fit
Exercising promotes fitness and helps improve gross- and fine-motor skills. It’s easier than you might think to exercise with your child, well before he or she can even crawl. During those all-important tummy-time sessions, get on the floor with your little one and join in. Your presence will entertain and distract your child, lengthen the tummy-time session, and tone your body. Be sure to show that you are finding the exercise enjoyable. Your child can tell if you aren’t.
3. Language and literacy gains
Talking and reading together improves your little one’s language and literacy skills, meaning you can make a tremendous difference in your child’s educational future. Numerous studies over the past 20 years have found that children from the wealthiest families hear millions of words more during their first three years of life than children from families with the least resources (time, money, support… you name it). This difference between socio-economic groups with respect to the number and quality of parent-child interactions is baked in place even before preschool and has a considerable impact on a child’s future language development, literacy skills and overall success in school.
Remember, your child is relying on you and other caregivers for every experience he or she has before being able to walk and talk. The more stimulating and complex the experiences are, the better. So, even if your child isn’t yet talking, your back and forth conversations provide opportunities for him or her to listen and respond to language by imitating the sounds and rhythms of what is heard. A smiling baby delights in having the smile returned. A 9-month-old may lift his or her arms to communicate “Pick me up, please.”
4. Bonding over shared music experiences
A study from the University of Arizona found a relationship between shared musical activity and the quality of the parent-child relationship. What’s more, by exploring musical concepts and expressions, and by experiencing dance and movement to music, your child is learning critical skills, knowledge and behaviors that can lead to future success in school and in life.
5. A time of playful learning
We Time is a time of playful learning. For example, taking a nature walk together creates opportunities to talk about living things, features of the earth, and the weather. At home, you’re teaching when you name objects your child is playing with, when you together count the number of snack pieces on your child’s plate, or when you name the colors of the clothes your little one is wearing.
Cooking together can begin earlier than you might think. A 2-year-old can stir. A 3-year-old can mix. A preschooler can help measure and add ingredients. Playful learning in the kitchen may involve math, science, food, nutrition, and cultural and family traditions. Everyone has fun and you often end up with something tasty to eat.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children describes play as a “wonderful metaphor for active, engaged, meaningful, and socially interactive learning.” Many researchers agree and describe “playful learning” as being the most positive means yet known to help young children’s development.
Make We Time a habit
As Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child tells us, a child’s first three years of life is a crucial time for brain development. During that time, it is critical for the child to form a secure attachment to his or her primary caregiver(s) through consistent, supportive experiences. In the absence of such experiences, children are less likely to grow up to become happy, independent, and resilient adults.
The We Time you spend with your young child today is, in a sense, an inoculation against future stress, depression, and learning difficulties. And the side effects? Love, happiness, secure attachments, physical and mental well-being, learning—in short, an invaluable start in life.a