Guiding Children in Play from the CREATIVE THERAPIES© handbook for parents and professionals
Play is the Language of Children
‘Enter the Metaphor’ ©
Messages: I am here! I hear you! I understand! I care!
- Schedule U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime © is playtime that your child directs and you guide. It is play with your child, daily, ideally, for 20 minutes (preferably at the same time each day).
- This will be playtime with no screens, electronics or store purchased games with rules. Ideally, you will offer only the simplest of play items to encourage the greatest amount of creativity. The ideal items include natural products such as wooden objects, silk scarves, sand, puppets, woolen dolls with plain faces. Please avoid cause and effect toys such as cars with sirens, guns with noises, and defined characters/figurines from the TV or movies.
- Plan for this to be a non-directive, non-corrective interaction with no outside interference or distractions.
- During this time refrain from questions, suggestions, commands, interpreting, evaluating, giving directions and teaching. It is okay to use how and what questions for clarification to follow the play, such as “What shall I have the mouse say?” and “How loud?”
- Ignore mildly inappropriate behaviors.
- Within broad limits, allow your child to take the lead, deciding what to do and how to play.
- Your role is to observe and narrate the ongoing play in positive terms.
- Describe exactly what you see. as if through the eyes of a radio sportscaster.
- The handbook will discuss the curative factors language for parents and professionals to use to enter into a child’s play. You will be taught the language of tracking, reflecting, returning responsibility to the child, crediting the effort, pacing, giving choices, setting limits and communicating with declaratives.
- Remember, you will be entering the metaphor of play. Trust that issues may not be where you as an adult think they are.
- During U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime© allow your child to take you on a journey – leading, exploring and reworking conflict.
- In this safe environment, your child can master his or her challenges and experience resolution and tremendous healing.
Other Benefits to You and Your Child
- The rebuilding of your relationship
- The improvement of listening skills
- The reduction of criticism and negative feedback
- The increase in feelings of self worth, confidence and security
- The development of a more positive attitude towards each other
- Your child will be calmer and parenting will become more enjoyable
U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime©
I tried to teach my child with books, he gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words, they passed him by often unheard
Despairingly I turned aside, “How shall I teach this child?” I cried.
Into my hand he put the key, “come,” he said, “play with me.”
U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime © involves learning how to pay attention to your child’s desirable behavior during playtime. To learn this, it is first helpful to review and practice the skills of ‘paying attention’ using the Video Moments Technique discussed in the handout ‘Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Approach.’ Later, you will learn how to use these new “attending” skills to increase your child’s compliance with commands and requests, as well as to support other positive behaviors. Paying attention to your child’s play behavior involves the following:
- Select a 20 minute block of time each day that is to become your special, one-on-one U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime © with your child. No other children are to be involved in this U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime ©.
- If your lifestyle does not allow you to plan a routined U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime © then find a time each day as it may arise when your child seems to be enjoying playing alone. Stop what you are doing, observe and find an entry point into your child’s play following the instructions below.
- If you have a designated time of day, when it arrives, simply say to your child, “It’s now time for our special U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime © together.” The child is to choose the play activity, within reason (no screen time, electronics or store purchased games with rules). If they are already engaged in an activity, casually observe until you find an entry point and insert yourself into the play.
- Relax!!!! Do not try to do U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime © when you are upset, busy, rushed or otherwise preoccupied as the quality of your attention will be compromised.
- As the play progresses begin to describe out loud what your child is doing. This should be mostly action oriented and in pace with the tone of the child’s voice and play. This is done to show your child: I am here; I hear you; I understand; and I care. The narration of the play may initially be challenging because it is a seemingly unusual blend of talking as if you are a sportscaster describing a game over the radio while being as genuine and authentic as you can.
- Your child is to direct the playtime. Do not give any directions, commands, suggestions, or evaluations and do not do any teaching. This is critical to the effectiveness of the program. It is all right to ask a question or two about how to join in or what to do in following (no leading) your child’s play. Typically, “How?” and “What” questions are used for clarification such as “How loud do you want me to roar?” or “What do you want me to have her (the doll) say?”
- Occasionally, provide your child with non-judgmental statements that notice his/her positive behavior, especially those behaviors you’d like to positively reinforce in hopes of seeing more of them! Remember, whichever behavior you put your attention on – your child will give you more of, so encourage what you want more of. For instance, “I notice…how cooperative you are being; “I see…you are being flexible;” and “You are….generous…kind…thoughtful…gentle…etc.” To begin, use the bold italicized words from the examples in the last sentence to get you familiar and comfortable with the language of encouragement. Also, you will receive additional handouts on “The Language of Parenting: The Curative Factors” to support your efforts. On a side, do not ‘interrupt’ when your child is “flowing.” A “flow” state is an unconscious, uninterrupted state, whereby a person loses oneself in the performance into a timeless, pleasurable experience where creativity and intellect blend.
- If your child mildly misbehaves, turn away for a few moments. If the behavior continues, or your child becomes disruptive, destructive, or abusive then tell your child, “I will return to play with you in 6 minutes” (or whatever is the same number of minutes as he/she is years old) and leave the room. Set a timer and absolutely come back as you said you would to finish what is left of the twenty minutes. When you return say nothing more about the behavior, simply re-enter the play.
- It is recommended that both parents spend 20 minutes, separately, daily with their child in this special U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime ©. Ideally every day, but at least five times a week initially. After the first four weeks you may decrease to three to four times a week indefinitely.
- THIS PROGRAM IS EASIER TO READ THAN IT IS TO DO! The first few
U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime © experiences, are often particularly challenging for the parents because the process and language are unfamiliar and perhaps awkward. The parents often report they: give too many commands; want to teach; and say too few positive comments to their child. Keep working on improving your attending skills toward your child. The benefits to you and your child are tremendous. You are encouraged to have U ‘N’ Me PLAYTime © with all of your children.
How to Play was inspired by a lecture given to a wealthy community in which the parents asked: “But, how do you play with your child?” This booklet is now offered for sale in attempt to service a generation of children compromised in health, overburdened specifically with vaccines, technology, and generally with too much, too soon, too fast and too, too controlled, audio available, titled PEACE.
The ideal playspace is simple, quiet, not cluttered, with basic toys and supplies that invite creativity and imagination rather than pushing of buttons and limited engagement.
Once a child has successfully developed the ability to play, and to play by himself, it is not necessary to continue to track his behavior or in any other way intrude or interrupt his self direction. At this point, it is often not necessary to say anything at all.