How should I react when my child is playing?

Erik Fisher
Kids, through their innocence, bring so much to their play experiences. Sometimes their actions are an expression of their inner selves and sometimes their actions are an expression of what they have seen in their environment. What I often observe in my work with families is that parents want to correct, steer, punish or even ignore what their child may be offering through the language of play. What I want to help parents and caretakers to do is to observe and participate with children during play.

I can't tell you how many times I have been playing with kids wondering where we were going and then seemingly out of nowhere came a theme. For example, when watching a child draw, do they draw people? Houses? Trees? Landscapes? How are the people interacting? Are they holding hands? Playing? Fighting? Ask questions of your kids. See if they will tell you a story about their drawing. See if you can find recurring themes in their drawings. If there are conflicts or issues that arise through their drawings, see if you can help them find solutions.

Games are a great way to help see how kids approach life, as well. Checkers, chess, darts, Chutes & Ladders … all of these games can give you an inside look at your child's persistence, resilience, values and sense of fairness, impulsivity and planning ability. These games are also a way to teach life lessons about taking risks and reaping rewards or consequences of those risks, about planning and observing, anticipating the moves of others, and even winning and losing with grace, honor and dignity. There is no shortage of opportunities through games and play, to learn and teach. Kids are often more receptive to learning in casual environments.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.