As our children are at home during recent events, and more and more is expected of parents to support education as well as balancing work and home life, I wanted to help showcase the importance of play and how essential it is to everyday life, dare I say more important than a child sitting for hours on end with only a text book for company.
As parents and carers you are an important factor in their developmental learning and at home they will be experiencing things that would never be replicated within a classroom environment. This gives incredible opportunities to help our children learn and grow socially, emotionally as well as psychologically, and all this can easily be achieved through play.
Play is a natural phenomenon and is a fundamental element for children growing and developing, learning and exploring, gaining independence and socialisation skills which are needed in order to survive in the world. Through play children can learn to problem solve, creatively express themselves, explore new ways of responding to life and enjoy interactions with others. Without a purpose or end goal, play itself is a journey of experience and one in which so much learning takes place.
As routines are disrupted and emotions are running high, there will be an ever increasing need for self-regulation and grounding, so here are a few ideas to help increase feelings of safety, calm and relaxation.
Firstly, I encourage you to look for opportunities to expand your interactions with unstructured play, outdoor play, risky and messy play – e.g Journey sticks – find sticks outside and for every activity place an elastic band or flower or ribbon around the stick creating a memory stick from nature.
Unstructured play – e.g any open ended play that has no objective or structure
Messy play – e.g. making mud pies, or having a spot in the garden to plant and play
Take 5 breathing – using fingers to count each breathe. Take a deep breathe in and hold your hand up, curl each finger as you breathe out and count down from 5 slowly. Pause and then extend each finger as you count up to 5 breathing in slowly. Repeat this several times allowing the breath to extend. Becoming aware of your breathing, regaining contact with the present moment.
Listen to your favourite music
Movement e.g. Yoga moves - https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga
Do something creative – cooking, writing a story or poem, knitting, woodwork, colouring, drawing
Play brain games – e.g A-Z of girls / boys names taking turns
Using gratitude thoughts and expressions daily - e.g 3 positive things that have happened today and one thing that could be improved.
Play the copy me game – clapping hands, using knees as drums, copy each other’s movements, rhythm and sounds – taking turns to lead and follow
As a family make calm cards and agree that in times of dysregulation, upset or distress that any member of the family should take a calm card. Ideas for calm cards can be anything from stroking the dog, to running in the garden, bouncing on the trampoline, giving yourself a hug, think of your favourite colour, sing, listen to your favourite song. The key point is that the family work on this together and all agree to all the strategies as we all have moments of dysregulation.
Bedtime routines are going to be really important in terms of keeping a healthy sleep pattern in place, so we can help avoid grumpy tiredness (speaking from personal experience!).
Children are often soothed by their caregivers voice, tone and closeness. So, stories, poems, visualisations and relaxation strategies are all great ways to help children make the transition from their busy day to a more relaxed pace and eventually to a sound sleep.
And most importantly, take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep well, move your body, stimulate your mind and create space and time for you.