I’m from a family where Sunday was games day. The table would be cleared and the game set up, snacks at the ready and the TV turned off.
For the next 30 – 60 minutes we would be planning, plotting, praying that we got the roll of the die that we needed to complete our goal before the rest of the family.
It was not until a few years ago I came to realise the powerful benefit of the playing of such games as a family.
They help your child learn and practice self-control, conflict resolution, how to keep calm, deal with disappointment and have fun while doing it.
The younger your child is when you start them on the self-calming path the easier it is. This is why being intentional with our parenting is so important.
I have identified six different play stages; these are based on my understanding and own family observations.
I am sharing three today, for those with babies and toddlers, and tomorrow I will share the rest.
Stage one: Peek a boo, or where’s it gone?
Mummy hides her face
Oh no, where has mummy gone?
Panic starts to build,
Mummy reveals her face,
oh there she is, I am all good.
This game creates a small amount of stress. Your child recovers quickly and their body starts to get used to the feeling of being a little anxious without the need for a full melt down.
Stage two: This little piggy… Round and round the garden… Itsy bitsy spider…
As you run through these rhymes you may notice your child starts squirming. Their body is learning to cope with the feelings of anticipation and excitement, they know what is going to happen, but have to wait for the right part of the song for the release.
Stage three: Hide and seek
Isolating yourself from others is akin to placing yourself in what could be perceived as a dangerous situation and is a great way to get the heart pumping and the worry monster rising. If you have ever played this game, you may have noticed the feeling of disappointment when you were found too soon, or the build-up of concern that maybe they have given up and left you!
Your child decides whether they stay hidden, or they come and find you. They are in control.
I remember being told to go away if I found my girls too soon!
Games activate your fight/flight response on purpose, which helps you to build resilience to the feeling, allowing you to approach situations more calmly and logically.
If your child is struggling with the concept, but you feel they are too old for silly songs and hiding, then look to repackage the experience.
Rather than sing nursery rhymes, put on some pop music which requires them to wait for a special part before busting a move.
Play sleeping lions or games where they need to resist reacting to distractions.
Play spot light, or squishums, rather than hide and seek.