The magic of playing with our children
I went to a conference this weekend and one of the presenters shared this poem:
I tried to teach my child with books. He gave me only puzzled looks. I tried to teach my child with words. They passed him by often unheard. Despairingly, I turned aside. "How shall I teach this child?" I cried. Into my hand he put the key "Come," he said, "play with me."
As parents we can get so busy and so focused on teaching that we forget that "language" our children use is play. This is especially true for those of us that have young children who are very verbal. They seem to be able to express themselves effectively but we overlook all the times when they aren't able to. When the behaviors and impulses take over because they simply can't put it all together into a neat package of words.
Playing with our children not only improves our connection and relationship with them, but it provides them with a place to practice, learn, process, and explore. You may be amazed at what can happen if you just allow your child to play in your presence.
I am a play therapist and I am still amazed at the power of play. Just this weekend, I pulled out all of the play therapy toys I had from when I had my therapy practice. My kids swarmed in like vultures and explored every toy. Toys were all over the living room. They played harder than I had ever seen. The next day, after organizing and cleaning up the mess, my oldest decided to revisit the toys. I asked her if she wanted to do what some of the kids I worked with did. She said sure. My only directive was build a scene or a world.
She did just that. I sat down and watched her silently work for a while. I then asked her to tell me what was happening. She shared the story and shared that some of the babies died of cancer (her grandmother passed away two years ago from cancer) and that the remaining babies worry that they might get sick with cancer too.
Tears came to my eyes. We talk a lot about her grandmother. Never had I heard her express this concern or fear. This is the magic of play! It gave her the space and distance to share her feelings through play. She could project onto the story her real concerns, fears, and feelings. Through this play we continued to explore the and talked about how the babies are healthy and safe.
Play is an amazing tool for parents to utilize. If you an remain playful and fun, you can teach lessons, coping skills, and process feelings, all using this amazing tool. If you want your kids to do something that they don't want to do, make it playful, make it fun. If my kids don't want to leave the park we turn leaving into a game of who can help me find my car.
Role playing and switching roles (parent became child and child becomes parent) is a great way to see how your child perceives you and to even see what your child feels would be a helpful way to respond to certain behaviors. Try it. Pick a scenario and switch roles. Your child may surprise you with the insight that they are able to express through play.
Play is a great way to engage with your child if you feel like you are constantly swimming upstream. You will be amazed to find that if you use play the resistance will fade. So while you feel busy and may get focused on teaching and problem solving with your children, remember that play is the best language you can use to communicate with your child.
Claudia Glassman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist, and Parenting Coach who offers one on one coaching services. Claudia is passionate about helping parents find joy and gain confidence in their parenting abilities. Her vision is to share her knowledge and bring awareness to the importance of the relationship that we have with our children.