Connect With Your Child Through Play

Connect With Your Child Through Play

Play for children is more than just dress up or make believe. It’s a place where children can build self-confidence and resiliency, learn new skills, work through emotions, or make sense of the world around them. With recent advances in neuroscience, scientists like Sergio Pellis are learning that play creates critical connections in children’s prefrontal cortex, an essential part of our brain responsible for managing emotions, problem solving and decision making.

The benefits of play reach beyond just brain development, as it is the meeting ground for parents to build deep connection and love with their child. It is the place where children show us who they are, what delights them, and also what they may be working through.

However, parents live busy lives. Between jobs, working through the never-ending laundry and helping kids get to and from activities, it can be exhausting and hard to find the time to just play with your children. With this in mind, we set out to find a couple simple ways that parents can enter back into play!

The Good News!

To get those yummy feelings of connection, trust and love with our children, it’s not the quantity of time spent but the quality of that time. Even just 3-5 minutes can be enough to build a connection with your child that makes you both feeling closer and happier together. To make the most out of the time you have, here are some recommendations:

  • Find a time each day where you can really be present and all your attention can be with your little one–time when the responsibilities of adult life can be put aside. If that’s only 3 minutes, great! Let your child know for 3 minutes that you are all theirs and ask, “What would you like to do?” Even set a timer so both you and your child know when time is up.
  • Let your child take the lead! This can be scary, but as much as you are comfortable, let your child lead the play and let them show you what they want to do.
  • Keep the laughter going! If during your play your child breaks out in laughter, you know you have hit the sweet spot and keep that going! Laughter is a wonderful way to let out stress and build connection.

To find out more about setting a time to connect with your kid check out this blog from Aha Parenting! Blog: https://www.ahaparenting.com/blog/How_To_Special_Time

Get back into the game!

For some of us, it may have been a long time since we played and it can be hard to know what to do or say. In the blog, “10 ways to enrich your child’s pretend play” writer Sues gives two great suggestions on how parents can engage with their child.

  • Try “Presenting a problem” in the play. This can be a fun way bring something new into play and give your child a chance to problem solve.
    • This can look and sound like: You and your child are playing with cars the problem could be, “Oh no! I ran out of gas! What do I do?” and then go on the journey of letting your child solve the problem
  • Try embedding additional learning and understanding in the play that comes from your years of experience.
    • So what does this look like? An example could be: taking your child’s interest in bugs to bring in interesting information about where they live, what they eat and their life cycle. What a fun way to merge learning and play!

Get support.

In the end, it takes patience and real attention to play and listen to our children.  Parenting can be complex and sometimes play can bring up emotions or feelings for us. Talking to someone you trust about how it is being a parent can be a great way to release stress and tension, work through our thoughts, and give us the energy to get back to it.

Hand in Hand Parenting has created something called Listening Partnerships as a way for parents to build a space and community for this. To learn more check out: https://shop.handinhandparenting.org/products/building-a-listening-partnership

Want to explore more? Check out these great resources and then share with us how the play is going in your home!

https://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/connection/play-child-emotional-intelligence

https://www.ted.com/talks/shonda_rhimes_my_year_of_saying_yes_to_everything?language=en

https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/10-things-every-parent-play

Image: © Volodymyr Tverdokhlib| Dreamstime.com

Emily Peterson
Emily Peterson is the Co-Clinical supervisor for the KITS program. She has interned at elementary schools and DHS, training with children in the foster care system prior to coming to OSLC. In her free time, Emily enjoys a good laugh, game nights, food and taking walks with her two dachshunds.

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