Lets play for changePlay is essential for children and adults, too.

Most of us don’t realise that play is universal, whatever the culture or society. The only difference is the attitude concerning the nature and value of space in each community.

Did you know that we have found evidence of the prevalence of play since prehistoric times, such as dice and gaming sticks? Play materials such as stones. In China, they have discovered models of pottery and metal, probably used as toys.

In my clinic, there is a common theme; many parents attend when their child is either anxious, hyperactive, angry, clumsy, jerky, watchful, or even shut down. This can be for various reasons: stressful pregnancy, birth trauma, postnatal depression, and childhood illness.

Children like this often need to connect to their bodies and minds. Unless your child can understand there is a connection to their bodily responses, feelings, and behaviour, he will continue to be impulsive or even shut down. We call this emotional dysregulation.

In this blog, I want to show you some simple play tips that you can use to help your child reconnect with their body and feelings to allow them to self-soothe and calm down,

Suppose a child is struggling to Self Soothe( regulate). They may feel this in their body and sometimes feel panicky, have headaches, or be hyperactive or shut down. To help them reconnect with their bodies, we know that touch can help. Communication is one of the earliest forms of sensory awareness, so you must provide your child with many opportunities. So give your child a boost of love/happy chemical oxytocin by massaging their feet or hands. Some children need deep pressure, so experiment.

Water play is soothing. Most of us are familiar with the relaxing effects of a bath. You can use the mild effects of water, whether at the sink or in the sea; it is an excellent excuse to be close. Some children I worked with do not express themselves verbally until they have saturated themselves in water play.

The power of playSome children are terrified of water, so you can go slow, such as starting with a foot bath (dipping their toes in and then progressing for the whole foot, etc.). Take your child out in the rain for puddles. Have a bath together with lots of bubbles.

Clay, I love clay; it’s beautiful, messy, soft, and mushy and can appeal to the same age. It’s very malleable, and you can make almost anything with it. It offers a tactile and kinesthetic experience,  great for anxiety and anger; you can push, bash and more.

Sand Play has texture, and some children may struggle, but sand is an excellent medium for stories. I am trained in Lowenfield Sand Play. Help your child to make a world in the sandbox, have figures such as animals, families, precious stones, and bits and pieces, and observe the play slowly and gently.

The power of playSet up a self-soothe box; this is something we use in DBT, Dialectal Behaviour Therapy Lineham 1993). Please help them to choose lots of soft materials such as silk fabrics, feathers, soft teddies, smooth precious stones, music, or anything that will help them feel calm. We use this at work for adolescents, too. The idea is to go to the box when they are not stressed and touch, experience every object and what it’s like in their bodies to feel calm; remember to change their behaviour; we need to give them options to do something else. Dysregulated children are often uncomfortable in their bodies and often seem jerky or clumsy. The more we help them to return to a calm state, the more they feel comfortable.

Children/adolescents struggle to know their bodies safely. Please help your child with a mirror; start with their face and progress.

Lastly, could you help them be mindful? Start with a toy (it’s less threatening). Let your child hold the toy/object for a minute or more for an older child. While having it, ask them to touch it, squeeze it, etc., and use as many senses as possible. Then ask them to describe it.

You can follow this by using the raisin exercise. Ask them to eat a raisin and then ask what they noticed. This can help any child begin to be aware of their bodies and know how it feels to be calm.

Happy playing; you can go to my Facebook page for a handout on this; I will be doing part two of this blog soon and will be including a relaxation and mindfulness exercise in the June Newsletter; sign up for my newsletter here>>>

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