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Entering into a Child's Play

Why is play necessary?

  1. Children express through play what adults do through words.
  2. "Entering in" fulfills a child's need for acceptance.
  3. Play creates the opportunity for listening, forgiving, encouraging, praising, touching, closeness, comforting...
  4. Not much time but some time daily is needed for successful bonding, trust, and empowerment. Researchers say twenty minutes per day is the minimum.

What happens when you play?

  1. Child feels special, loved.
  2. Child is empowered to cooperate with parent after play.
  3. Child trusts adult.
  4. Opportunity to listen, observe, touch, reassure, praise

How do you enter in to a child's play?

  1. Ask to join what your child is already doing.
  2. Observe at first, wait to be invited in.
  3. Give running commentary or feedback on what you observe the child doing...much like a sports reporter doing a play by play broadcast.
  4. Include yourself if invited. Let the child direct the action. You focus on being emotional and having fun!

What are the types of play that mean the most to the child?

  1. Non-directed is most preferred. But directed play is okay too.
  2. Dolls, action figures, animals, blocks, paper and pencil, are good props for non-directed play.
  3. Directed play is structured and has rules to follow (determined beforehand).
  4. Simple activities are most meaningful to the child and adult. Most of the time these are non-directed activities (free form and solely up to the child's imagination).
  5. Close physical play is better for attachment and trust issues. (wrestling, holding/rocking, handholding, drama/acting roles, "Make me laugh game"...)
  6. Movement and rule-governed play is better for ADHD children. Blocks, "Slow Motion Game", card games are cool, dance, sports...)
  7. Depressed or shy children respond well to puppet play, commentary and dialogue, "Feelings Checkers", human figures in relationships, saying what you see...reflective statements.
  8. Angry children like competitive games but do comment on rule changing and fixing the game so they win! Exercising can be therapeutic for this child. Maybe walking (call it "hiking"), biking, skating, skateboarding (not you, them!). Artwork is also really powerful as an expression of anger. Say what you see!!

All children need a willing adult to enter in to their world of play on a daily basis. Keep it simple and enjoy! The rewards are everlasting!

Article by David C. Williams, Ph.D., http://www.therapytoy.com

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