Today’s Solutions: October 22, 2021

Back in November, we shared how children are using play to understand and process the pandemic. Enacting events through play is how children come to terms with change, which means that parents and caregivers can use this to their advantage in helping children process new situations.

Focusing on strategic free play methods, where the child takes the lead in structuring the type of play, can help parents guide children into this new phase of the pandemic, whether that means going back to school, engaging in remote education, or just adjusting to being back in the real world more frequently. Here are five free play tips for caregivers from the University of South Carolina play therapy professor Jessie D. Guest.

Get on children’s level 

Caregivers tend to spend much of their time physically above children, but getting down on their level can help adults engage more actively in play. Sitting on the floor with children brings the adult into the child’s environment, puts you on their level, and creates more of a collaborative environment where both parties are taking part in the play.

Let the child take the lead

Structured play, like puzzles, games, and coloring books can be great for keeping kids entertained, but unstructured play where children are free to come up with their own inspiration for games allows for more creativity and reflection for kids. Simply ask the child what they feel like playing today and let them take the lead.

Demonstrate interest 

Children can tell when adults are truly engaged in play with them. Ask questions about the game and take a genuine interest in the game they have set out. This can look like making observations about a certain toy and asking how different play situations make them feel.

Set limits

Free play doesn’t mean the child has free rein. If a child is displaying unacceptable behavior or acting out, acknowledge what they’re feeling and how this impacts their game. For example, if a child is throwing toys, remind them that this can be dangerous and you will have to find another way to play with the toys which is safer. If you find that a child repeatedly acts out in certain play scenarios, such as reenacting school, this could be indicative that they’re uncomfortable with that environment.

Be consistent

Children thrive with routine and stability. Try to set aside specific times during the week to engage in free play and if possible, designate an area of the home where children can play without restrictions. This can be a playroom with their toys or even a toy corner where they get to take the lead in play.

Unstructured play is critical for cognitive and emotional development in children. It teaches them creativity, problem-solving, and communication skills while helping them learn about boundaries and independence. As adults, it can be difficult to remember how to engage in silliness and play, but letting children take the lead and learning from their behavior will help you encourage healthy play and even learn more about your child.

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

FDA takes steps to authorize over-the-counter hearing aids

A new policy from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to make hearing aids more accessible and affordable in the US. The new policy will make hearing devices available over-the-counter as early as next ... Read More

California grants leatherback sea turtles further protection

For decades, the population of the great Pacific leatherback turtle off the California coast has declined by 5.6 percent per year. To address this devastating loss, California’s Fish and Game Commission recently voted to list ... Read More

This crisis alert app provides crucial information to residents of Kabul

As conditions in Kabul continue to worsen due to the Taliban takeover, residents of the Afghan capital have been struggling to get accurate real-time information about what’s happening in the city. Three and a half ... Read More

World record broken for coldest temperature ever recorded

With our current knowledge of how temperature works there is no upper limit, this means materials can keep getting hotter and hotter to no end. This is not the case for lower temperatures, with the ... Read More

The scientific power of live music

We’re all familiar with the sense of wonder and joy we experience when we hear a song or piece of music we love, but there’s something even more magical about hearing that song performed live. ... Read More

5 Healthy cooking oils for a plant-based diet

Finding the right oil for your diet is a crucial part of maintaining your health—and is especially important for those who stick to a vegan diet. To minimize some of the confusion you may face ... Read More