These same toys can be catalysts in the enhancement of the parent-child relationship. They can also lead to the improvement of social skills, coping skills and feelings identification.
As adults, we tend to move away from that fantastical, pretend place of play. Life is based on logic, reality and a structured schedule. Thus, it can be hard to connect with children and their keen sense of creativity.
However, if the parent can engage their own child-like self, much can be accomplished in the arena of teaching and guiding. In turn, the parent may gain a few skills from the child as well.
For instance, rather than lecturing a 4 year old on the importance of saying please and thank you, there are games that reinforce such social skills in a fun fashion.
Noodleboro has a line of listening games, manners games and sharing games. These games encourage skills in a melody of colors, tokens and props. Children don’t even realize they’re learning, and the games can be bought inexpensively online.
One does not have to make a special purchase to bond with their child, however. Games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders provide similar opportunities, the parent just has to move beyond the surface of the actual game. Once a child is involved in a fun, nonthreatening activity, he or she is much more likely to share thoughts, feelings and experiences.
The next step in connecting with the child is asking open-ended questions. Parents may ask their children what topics they’re learning about in school, which children they played with at recess, what they liked about gym and what books they read during reading time.
From their responses, the parents can follow up with other questions or offer specific praises. The parent can say something like, “I really liked how you shared your toys with the other kids today. That was nice.” Another form of praise might include, “I like how you’re taking turns and waiting patiently.”
During this talk time, validation of feelings is also vital. Asking a child how they felt about a particular situation and then affirming that feeling can reduce acting out behaviors and improve the functioning of the child.
Further, the parent can stick to the theme of the game if desired. A game like Candy Land can offer an abundance of fun conversation. Parents can chat with their children about their favorite candy, their favorite game to play and throw in real candy as a reward for winning.
Barbie dolls and action figures can give parents unique opportunities to teach children conflict resolution skills, communication techniques and coping skills. Additionally, parents can urge their small children to act out an incident at school or an experience with a friend or teacher.
The parent can start off by observing the way the child responded to a particular situation. Following the demonstration, the parent can role play a mom-approved response. It is often effective to have the child reciprocate the skill.
For example, if the child describes being called a name at school, the parent may model telling the other child that he or she does not like to be called names and then model asking the child to stop.
Role playing can also be applicable for sharing toys, arguing with other children or taking turns. The art of basic compromise can be subtly sewn into the playful activities.
Likewise, in the high-pressure world of elementary school, techniques for managing stress and anxiety can improve self-esteem and the overall social and emotional functioning of the child. As the guide, the parent can teach some very specific skills.
Deep breathing is a basic technique used to stay calm during times of nervousness and anxiety. The parent can teach the child to breathe slowly in through their nose and out through their mouth. Bubbles are an excellent way to naturally encourage a child to deep breathe.
Following the teaching, the child can use dolls or action figures and teach them how to complete the skill. The parent may also suggest their child tap into their own abilities. The child may give advice to another doll that is experiencing the same kind of problem.
When using such techniques, it is important to be sure the child understands what anxiety, stress, anger, or sadness feels like so they know when to intervene. The parent may help the child cite specific physical or behavioral symptoms of these feelings, like a racing heart, a stomach ache or clenched fists.
Dolls, puppets, figurines and toy houses can serve other purposes as well. The parent can gauge the dynamics of school or other extracurricular activities by asking the child to demonstrate it through play.
Encouraging the child to use paint, markers, crayons or colored pencils to create a happy place picture can also be beneficial during times of high stress. The parent can urge the child to use the happy place picture on a regular basis.
Kids’ yoga, meditation, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation can also be utilized in the effort to raise emotionally healthy children. Scripts for these activities that are adapted for children can be found on the Internet.
Lastly, the energy of that one-on-one time with both parents can fill the child with confidence and happiness. This time should be incorporated as often as possible. Essentially, those intimate moments intertwine the two worlds of reality and idealism in a clash of fairies, dragons and real life lessons.
These techniques meet the child at their development and play on the resilient magic that is found in those early years. Children can be molded and shaped in powerful ways.
In that process, however, a parent shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to learn a thing or two from that child.
After all, the same imagination can certainly come in handy - even in the adult world.
Published: February 27, 2012