Adults often feel uncomfortable engaging with children in imaginary or pretend play. Maybe we have forgotten how to play make-believe. Or, we may feel silly or immature if we get involved in imaginary play. We may even be laughed at by others when we play this way! This is unfortunate because playing together in an imaginary, pretend, or make-believe way raises the parent-child relationship to a whole new level of connection and positivity.
Children experience various states of fear and anxiety from the moment they are born. Sometimes it is easy to tell if a child is anxious by their crying and clinging behaviors. But sometimes, it is difficult to identify anxiety in children and may be overlooked. Some children hide their anxiety because it is too difficult for them to express it to others. Some children turn their anxiety into angry tantrums or defiant behaviors … Anxious children can benefit a great deal by support from their parents.
After working with children and parents for many years as a child and play therapist, I developed guidelines for parents on ways they could play with their children at home in order to support their children’s healthy development as well as to strengthen the parent-child relationship. In these guidelines, I have identified nine parent “skills” to use during parent-child playtime. This article will give you some general ideas of how the skills I have identified for playtime can be generalized and used in everyday situations outside of playtime.
Parents may wonder if they should get involved in their children’s imaginary play. This is a great question, because children definitely need time and space on their own to use their imaginations to develop stories and ideas in playtime. However, parents can, and should, become involved in their children’s imaginary play at times because this is an excellent way to strengthen the parent-child relationship.
In an earlier blog post, I’ve identified the 6 key concepts for engaging in Child-Directed Playtime with your child. Sometimes, though, I find it’s easier to understand something if there’s a concrete example of it, so that’s what I’ve done with this blog post. I’ve made up a play scenario based on my experiences from many years of interacting with children as a play therapist. I’ll show you what it would look like if your child played out this scenario and you were engaging in 15 minutes of Child-Directed Playtime with him.