Play is the Therapy We All Need Right Now
It is said that we are all going through a collective traumatic event right now. And while we're trying to protect our young children from a lot of that, they're still affected on some level. We may think we have masked the stress and fear and anxiety that adults feel, but children are insightful. They […]

It is said that we are all going through a collective traumatic event right now. And while we're trying to protect our young children from a lot of that, they're still affected on some level.

We may think we have masked the stress and fear and anxiety that adults feel, but children are insightful. They may not know all the headlines, but they can read them on our worried faces.

So many things around them suddenly changed. And in the void of previously scheduled events, many families find a silver lining.

An increase in play.

While some may think that all of this playing time is just a filler for time that was once relegated to “more productive things” like school, sports, recitals, lessons, etc. does one of the best things young children could do right now.

Playing is full of learning opportunities, but it is also one of the most natural forms of therapy available to us.

In play, children have an outlet - physically, creatively, emotionally - to express any feelings they may have but probably not articulate.

Think about it:

Have you had trouble expressing your feelings in specific words these days? I know I have. And yet, we are decades ahead of these little ones when it comes to language experience. In play, children do not need to know the words “anxiety,” “grief,” or “disappointment,” they can just take action and provide an outlet for those emotions.

Beat up play dough, run and stomp in the yard, make edicts as an almighty king or queen, take blocks, and create something of their own - each of these (and more) can help kids to overcome feelings much greater than their vocabularies.

Play helps children find power where they feel helpless, control where they feel uncertain and escape discomfort.

Thanks to the magic of the game, children are omnipotent. They control the parts. They control the scenes. They control the results. Each “what then…” is at their discretion.

The game is the perfect escape hatch in times of turbulence, and we have the benefit of being invited to come.

Here are some of the types of games in which we can support our children, and the therapeutic benefits that come with them. And don't forget, these benefits are also available to us adults, so don't hesitate!

(As a warning and a note, it is important to distinguish therapy from therapy. Play is always therapeutic, that is, it possesses qualities that provide healing, repair and renewal. . These therapeutic qualities are inherent in play. However, this should not be confused with clinical therapy, which is a type of treatment under the direction and supervision of a health professional. Play therapy is one form. effective clinical therapy, and although these fun activities share the same therapeutic properties, it should not replace clinical therapy or be misinterpreted as clinical supervision and / or counseling.)

Physical game

Emotions are often stored in the body. You felt it like a knot in your stomach, a tension in your shoulders or an energy flowing in your arms. This is the reason why we shake our fists in rage and kiss each other in joy. Whether it's anxiety or excitement, anger or joy, it is natural that our body provides an outlet for emotions and energy through movement. It doesn't even have to be conscious release. The simple act of moving helps our mental state.

When children have the time and space to move their bodies - run, climb, jump, dance, ride a bike, play games - they release emotional tension and reap the benefits of "good mood neurotransmitters". *

Sensory play

The game that engages our senses helps us focus as we handle rice, water, moss, sand, or a million other materials. In the same way several other advantages, this type of play often helps alleviate worry and anxiety because immersing ourselves in the sensory experience helps us to become present and rooted in the immediate reality that surrounds us.

In fact, a common therapeutic practice for controlling overwhelming emotions includes a grounding exercise that encourages people to name the things around them. This forces them to capture all the information from their senses and helps them stay present in the moment. Likewise, in sensory play, children take root in what they experience through their senses and reap similar calming benefits.

In the preschool classroom, this type of game is often - but not always - found in a water table, sandbox or bin. At home, it can be as simple as a sink, bathtub, dirt stain in the yard, a baking dish, or a storage bin full of dry rice. As children first dip their hands into material they can handle and feel, they often become more centered and focused.

Nature game

Playing in nature is the ideal combination of so many forms of play, especially physical and sensory play. When stepping out to play outdoors, children almost instinctively engage in larger motor movements - running, climbing, jumping, balancing - while engaging their fine motor skills as they switch gears to hold an endless variety of materials. or return delicate discoveries. At the same time, they also reap all the benefits of a calming sensory play that is prepackaged in their natural surroundings. Perhaps this is why research has shown that weather in nature is restorative and invigorating.

Creative play

Any kind of creative play - from structures built from legos or blocks to paintings, stories and improvised dances on the spot - gives children an expressive outlet and a feeling of control. Intangible things like ideas and emotions come true when we give external form to everything inside. Creativity becomes an outlet for things that are too big to continue to carry, but which we cannot give up without full processing.

Imaginative play

Maybe this could technically be considered a subcategory of creative play, but imaginative play deserves a section of its own. When children engage in imaginative play (also known as drama, pretend play, or just “dress up”), they become masters of their own world.

When children engage in imaginative play, they can process big ideas and emotions - even ones they can't put into words. As I wrote years ago, "Fantasy play is the fertile ground where children's ideas are dispersed, nurtured and allowed to flourish. They can wrestle with ideas of power and control by simply taking on the role of a powerful monarch, parent, or superhero, or vice versa, a helpless baby. They may choose to play doctor in an attempt to make sense of and take control of the information around them. Themes like school, dining, friendship, or family can all be used to address feelings of loss and change at this time.

As Kate Cray writes in this article for The Atlantic, “Play is the language of children. They stage simulated scenarios as a way to express concerns, ask questions, and most importantly, reshape a narrative. In a pretend scenario, children lead the story and can change the outcome of a frightening situation or try different solutions to a problem.

In imaginative play, whether in a dress-up setting or in a small world setting (think Matchbox cars or dollhouses, where the child leads all the "little world"), children can sort the difficult concepts and emotions in a way that empowers them. This fantasy world also offers a fun diversion and escape from the present to a world to a place entirely in their choice and control. It's a place where smiles and laughter are almost inevitable and worries are always manageable.

While some may think that play is just what we 'have left' now, I would say that it is actually one of the things that the kids - and maybe the kids in all of us - really have. no longer needed at this time.


The Why We Play letters share important messages about the game in a version written especially for parents in your educational community. Get your own set to help you consistently communicate Why We Play.


Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.

CREDIT : HEATHER WESTONSet Smart LimitsTake charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely. Don’t clip your child’s wings. Your toddler’s mission in life is to gain independence. So when she’s developmentally capable of putting her toys away, clearing her plate from the table, and herself, let her. Giving a child responsibility is good for her self-esteem ( and your sanity ! ).

Don’t try to fix everything. Give young kids a chance to find their own solutions. When you lovingly acknowledge a child’s minor frustrations without immediately rushing in to save her, you teach her self-reliance and resilience.

Pick your battles. Kids can’t absorb too many rules without turning off completely. Forget arguing about little stuff like choices and occasional potty language. Focus on the things that really matter -- that means no hitting, rude talk, or lying.

Play with your children. Let them choose the activity, and don’t worry about rules. Just go with the flow and have fun. That’s the name of the game.

Read books together every day. Get started when he’s a newborn; babies love listening to the sound of their parents’ voices. Cuddling up with your child and a book is a great bonding experience that will set him up for a lifetime of reading.

Schedule daily special time. Let your child choose an activity where you hang out together for 10 or 15 minutes with no interruptions. There’s no better way for you to show your love.

Encourage daddy time. The greatest untapped resource available for improving the lives of our children is time with Dad -- early and often. Kids with engaged fathers do better in school, problem-solve more successfully, and generally cope better with whatever life throws at them.

Make warm memories. Your children will probably not remember anything that you say to them, but they will recall the family rituals -- like bedtimes and game night -- that you do together.

Be the role model your children deserve. Kids learn by watching their parents. Modeling appropriate, respectful, good behavior works much better than telling them what to do.

Fess up when you blow it. This is the best way to show your child how and when she should apologize.

Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.

Live a little greener. Show your kids how easy it is to care for the environment. Waste less, recycle, reuse, and conserve each day. Spend an afternoon picking up trash around the neighborhood.

Always tell the truth. It’s how you want your child to behave, right ? Kiss and hug your spouse in front of the kids. Your marriage is the only example your child has of what an intimate relationship looks, feels, and sounds like. So it’s your job to set a great standard.

Give appropriate praise. Instead of simply saying, ' You’re great, ' try to be specific about what your child did to deserve the positive feedback. You might say, ' Waiting until I was off the phone to ask for cookies was hard, and I really liked your patience. '

Cheer the good stuff. When you notice your child doing something helpful or nice, let him know how you feel. It’s a great way to reinforce good behavior so he’s more likely to keep doing it.

Gossip about your kids. Fact : What we overhear is far more potent than what we are told directly. Make praise more effective by letting your child ' catch ' you whispering a compliment about him to Grandma, Dad, or even his teddy.

Give yourself a break. Hitting the drive-through when you’re too tired to cook doesn’t make you a bad responsable d'un enfant.

Trust your mommy gut. No one knows your child better than you. Follow your instincts when it comes to his health and well-being. If you think something’s wrong, chances are you’re right. Just say ' No. ' Resist the urge to take on extra obligations at the office or become the Volunteer Queen at your child’s school. You will never, ever regret spending more time with your children.

Don’t accept disrespect from your child. Never allow her to be rude or say hurtful things to you or anyone else. If she does, tell her firmly that you will not tolerate any form of disrespect. Pass along your plan. Mobilize the other caregivers in your child’s life -- your spouse, grandparents, daycare worker, babysitter -- to help reinforce the values and the behavior you want to instill. This includes everything from saying thank you and being kind to not whining.

Ask your children three ' you ' questions every day. The art of conversation is an important social skill, but parents often neglect to teach it. Get a kid going with questions like, ' Did you have fun at school ? ' ; ' What did you do at the party you went to ? ' ; or ' Where do you want to go tomorrow afternoon ? ' Teach kids this bravery trick. Tell them to always notice the color of a person’s eyes. Making eye contact will help a hesitant child appear more confident and will help any kid to be more assertive and less likely to be picked on.

Acknowledge your kid’s strong emotions. When your child’s meltdown is over, ask him, ' How did that feel ? ' and ' What do you think would make it better ? ' Then listen to him. He’ll recover from a tantrum more easily if you let him talk it out.

Show your child how to become a responsible citizen. Find ways to help others all year. Kids gain a sense of self-worth by volunteering in the community. Don’t raise a spoiled kid. Keep this thought in mind : Every child is a treasure, but no child is the center of the universe. Teach him accordingly.

Talk about what it means to be a good person. Start early : When you read bedtime stories, for example, ask your toddler whether characters are being mean or nice and explore why. Explain to your kids why values are important. The simple answer : When you’re kind, generous, honest, and respectful, you make the people around you feel good. More important, you feel good about yourself.

Set up a ' gratitude circle ' every night at dinner. Go around the table and take turns talking about the various people who were generous and kind to each of you that day. It may sound corny, but it makes everyone feel good.

Serve a food again and again. If your child rejects a new dish, don’t give up hope. You may have to offer it another six, eight, or even 10 times before he eats it and decides he likes it. Avoid food fights. A healthy child instinctively knows how much to eat. If he refuses to finish whatever food is on his plate, just let it go. He won’t starve.

Eat at least one meal as a family each day. Sitting down at the table together is a relaxed way for everyone to connect -- a time to share happy news, talk about the day, or tell a silly joke. It also helps your kids develop saine eating habits. Let your kids place an order. Once a week, allow your children to choose what’s for dinner and cook it for them.

Say ' I love you ' whenever you feel it, even if it’s 743 times a day. You simply can not spoil a child with too many mushy words of affection and too many smooches. Not possible. Keep in mind what grandmoms always say. Children are not yours, they are only lent to you for a time. In those fleeting years, do your best to help them grow up to be good people. Savor the instants. Yes, parenthood is the most exhausting emploi on the planet. Yes, your house is a mess, the laundry’s piled up, and the dog needs to be walked. But your kid just laughed. Enjoy it now -- it will be over far too fast.

Teach your baby to sign. Just because a child can’t talk doesn’t mean there isn’t lots that she’d like to say. Simple signs can help you know what she needs and even how she feels well before she has the words to tell you -- a great way to reduce frustration. Keep the tube in the family room. Research has repeatedly shown that children with a TV in their bedroom weigh more, sleep less, and have lower grades and poorer social skills. P. S. Parents with a television in their bedroom have sex less often. Get kids moving. The latest research shows that brain development in young children may be linked to their activity level. Place your baby on her tummy several times during the day, let your toddler walk instead of ride in her stroller, and create opportunities for your older child to get plenty of exercise.

Get your kids vaccinated. Outbreaks of measles and other diseases still occur in our country and throughout the world. Protect that smile. Encouraging your kid to brush twice a day with a dab of fluoride toothpaste will guard against cavities. Be averti about safety. Babyproof your home thoroughly, and never leave a child under 5 in the tub alone. Make sure car seats are installed correctly, and insist that your child wear a helmet when riding his bike or scooter. Listen to the doc. If your pediatrician thinks your kid’s fever is caused by a virus, don’t push for antibiotics. The best medicine may be rest, lots of fluids, and a little TLC. Overprescribing antibiotics can cause medical problems for your child and increase the chances of creating superbugs that resist treatment.

Keep sunblock next to your kid’s toothpaste. Apply it every day as part of the morning routine. It’ll become as natural as brushing her teeth. Put your baby to bed drowsy but still awake. This helps your child learn to soothe himself to sleep and prevents bedtime problems down the line. Know when to toilet train. Look for these two signs that your child is ready to use the potty : He senses the urge to pee and poop ( this is different from knowing that he’s already gone ), and he asks for a diaper change.

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