7 Ways to Engage Your Child in Everyday Play

The “P” in Dolphin Kids’ P.O.D.  stands for PLAY! Why is play important? From learning problem-solving skills, to creative thinking, processing emotions and building resilience, play offers great opportunities for growth and parent-child bonding.

Children love to play and have an endless capacity for play. However, parents’ ability or willingness for play may not be as consistent. Sometimes, after a long day of work and chores, getting down on the floor to play dollhouse with your child or going outdoors for physically active game may seem exhausting. But the truth is, play does not have to last long and it can also be part of everyday life.

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, there are 7 different types of play that accomplishes different benefits. Here are its definitions and some tips to get your started:

Attunement Play

Communication with your child happens all the time, and a large percentage of what we perceive in communication is non-verbal signals. Eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice and bodily gestures can be easily sensed by your child as to whether or not you are genuinely interested in them.
Attunement play is therefore the foundation of all forms of play and can be used in all kinds of interactions with your child. Respond to your child’s actions by mirroring her movements and expressions, make up a song or do a dance with the action. Enter into your child’s world and show that you are listening and understanding him/her.

Social Play

Social Play

Social play helps children establish social norms. Play with parents set the stage for children’s ability to successfully play with others. Strive for an even distribution of power — Be careful not to take over and give too many directions when playing with your child. Likewise, it is also important not to let your child boss you around. When we allow children to dominate us in play, to be inattentive to our needs and desires, we may, in fact, be turning them into spoiled brats. Cooperate with your child in play by sharing a common goal and having complementary roles, e.g., fixing a jigsaw puzzle, building a bridge with blocks, making art, baking/cooking together.

Pretend Play

Imaginative and pretend play is where creativity begins. Playing the pirate, doctor or teacher — acting out stories which involve multiple perspectives and determining ideas and emotions, pretend play can help children to create their own sense of their mind, and that of others. If make-believe play is not something you feel comfortable doing, try talking to your child regularly explaining features about nature and social issues, or read to your child at bedtime instead.

Pretend Play
Movement Play

Movement Play

Leaping in the air teaches us the effects of gravity. Dance teaches us the various ways that our bodies can move. Movement play helps us think spatially, and the physical exertion and effort to get a movement right fosters adaptability and resilience. Chase games, hide and seek, tickles, and rough-housing games make children laugh, scream and sweat — which can help release pent-up stress hormones that they would otherwise have to tantrum to discharge.

Object Play

Object play allows children to explore the functions of objects and develop tools. By manipulating objects such as building blocks, puzzles, cars, dolls, etc., object play allows children to try out new combinations of actions, and may help develop problem solving skills. Sometimes, object play also involves pretend play, e.g., building a house or feeding a doll. Some household items can also serve as fun and interesting objects for play, as long as they are safe.

Object Play
Storytelling-Narrative Play

Storytelling-Narrative Play

Besides improving children’s sense of well-being and self-identity, storytelling plays an essential role to children in understanding their environment. Through listening to stories, they learn to understand the differences to others’ feelings, culture, backgrounds, and experiences. When children can create their own stories, they also show better divergent thinking. Try coming up with a beginning of a story and let your child think and explore as much as they can. If they get stuck or repetitive, suggest one or two ideas on what can happen next.

Creative Play

Children start developing their creativity in role-playing and pretend play, and when they do, they are able to imagine new ways or ideas about doing things that can add function and progress to lives in future. When you are with your child, stimulate creative ideas by encouraging them to come up with new and unusual uses of everyday items, art materials or toys. Try to remain open and curious to new and original ideas, and encourage children to come up with more than one solution or answer.

Creative Play
Play is in the Everyday

Play is in the Everyday

Play offers connection, bonding, and co-operation. Opportunities for play can happen everyday with common daily activities. The quality of time spent with your child is the factor that makes a difference. As Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting puts it, you need to be “tuned in” to your child’s needs and wants. Give your child your full attention and follow their lead by letting them direct and control the pace of the play. Relax and have fun while being in the moment with them. Whether it’s baking cookies together, or washing a car, it’s the spirit of playfulness that we bring to daily activities that turns the mundane into play.

The Power of Positive Mindset

Having a positive mindset has a bigger impact on performance than what researchers have expected. A recent study by Stanford University found something surprising. Researchers observed the brains of students to understand how attitude influence achievement, and it turns out that having a positive outlook on learning, plays an equally important role as IQ.

When children do well in tests, they would naturally enjoy the subject more and feel more confident about it. However, the study has shown that the other way around — starting off with an expectation that they will like the subject and are capable in it, can help their brains to problem-solve better and improve their achievement too.

How do we as parents, help children foster more positive mindsets towards a subject or their potential then? Here are some suggestions:

Be self-aware

To help children establish a positive mindset, we have to develop one ourselves. When parents or teachers respond to children’s struggles and mistakes with “anxiety or over-concern”, they unknowingly teach children to fear failure and prevent them from learning from trial and error.

First of all, make an effort to recognise your own unhelpful or self-defeating thinking , e.g., an overemphasis on getting things right, trying to please everyone, or fear of losing out (to name a few). Secondly, be conscious about making a choice in shifting your negative thinking by reminding yourself to strive for progress rather than perfection. Model a positive mindset in your lifestyle and interactions with your child and he will learn its true value.

Praising appropriately

Praising appropriately

Don’t praise your children for being smart. Research by psychologist Carol Dweck has shown that by doing so, it can cause children to be fearful of taking risks or pursuing tough goals that might make them feel vulnerable and less intelligent. Praise them for making effort by saying, “I’m proud that you tried really hard!” or “You really practiced that, and look how you’ve improved!”

Take advantage of mistakes

Build your child’s resilience by instilling in them a belief that our mental capabilities are not fixed and can be improved with effort. When your child makes mistakes, tell them that they are giving their brains opportunity for growth. So if your child comes back to you with a D on his math test, respond with something like, “What did you do?”, “what can we do next?” Don’t just tell your child to try harder, offer strategies or skills to overcome a challenging task.

Take advantage of mistakes
 skills to overcome a challenging task

Use the word “yet”

Instead of saying “I can’t play basketball or I can’t do multiplication,” adding a “yet” to the end of the sentences changes their meaning and promotes growth and opportunity. The word “yet” gives children more confidence and lead them on a path that encourages persistence. By saying “yet”, it leaves possibilities open instead of just saying “I can’t”.This simple linguistic trick implies that children will master these skills eventually with time and practice.

Find meaning in things that happen

Help your child bounce back from disappointments by encouraging them to talk about their emotions and make meaning of the events that happened to them. Life is unpredictable and filled with ups and downs, and by nurturing spirituality, we can find direction and hope during difficult times. Connecting with nature, meditating, sharing stories, creating something or helping others in need are some ways to develop spirituality, which can give a greater purpose to life.

Express gratitude Kids
Express gratitude

Express gratitude

There are so many benefits to having an attitude of gratitude and one of them is helping us to develop a positive outlook. Teach your child to see the positives in everyday life, no matter how big or small. At dinner or bedtime, share stories with each other about the simple pleasures of your day. Create a “gratitude journal” together as a family by gluing pictures from magazines, drawing or writing down things everyone is grateful for. These activities do not only build close relationships, they also can create a positive environment at home.

Having a positive mindset is one of the most important strengths for building resilience, which can eventually bring greater success and happiness in life. When children learn to perceive a difficulty as a manageable one, it makes them feel more confident and gives them hope. Besides, it also acts as a shield from anxiety, depression and poor health. Teaching your child how to respond to problems positively can make all the difference. Try to find the cup half full and be on the lookout for the bright side — your kids will also do the same.

Positive people don’t just have a good day; they make it a good day. People who think positively usually see endless possibilities.

-Richard Branson

Meditation for Kids

The need for meditative practice and/or mindfulness for children was an unheard-of concept until a few years back. The sudden influx in academic pressure with a need to balance that with their social and emotional needs, changed the way the world functioned before. Taking a toll over the young and unbent minds of the innocent. We can seek solace in this situation with the thought that humans are the only species who have the ability to pay attention to their surroundings and breathe deeply, no matter how far they travel, how much trouble they are in, or how busy they are- humans never fail to remember, to notice their surroundings.

Deep, controlled breathing is the first and most powerful key to self-awareness and self-control. Breathing is completely instinctive but breathing deeply is voluntary and can be controlled. We at Dolphin POD strive to guiding children towards mindful, deep, controlled breathing offering them a lifelong tool for when they feel stress, upset, worried, anxious, angry and just out of control. We not only work on providing them the emotional vocabulary but also the means to channelize their negative feelings through positives self-expression. Meditation or mindfulness for kids will help them regulate their bodies and mind and help build problem-solving and critical thinking abilities as well. Mindfulness takes us off auto-pilot and make us more fully alive and aware, bringing the attention back to our internal processes such as feeling and thinking combined with external responses such as touching, hearing, tasting or smelling! Being mindful is known to improve focus, sleep, concentration and performance; increase in creativity and most importantly- establish a connect with oneself and others. And what easier way to be mindful is to simply breathe, deeply!?

Communication Skills Activities

We live in a world where digital media is moving at an unfathomable pace. It is slowly impacting the way we express ourselves, interact with others and manage our relationships. In the age of Facebook, WhatsApp etc. – increasingly becoming the most frequented interface for building and establishing rapports with people around, the role and importance of face-to-face communication seems to be diminishing completely! Many research studies have shown that to do well in today’s fast-paced, highly social, ultra-competitive, and globally connected world our future generation needs skills such as- Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity & Contribution. These core skills comprise Consciousness Quotient (CQ) which is becoming the ultimate determinant for success in adulthood, because it is with the help of this tool that individuals can gain complete access to other facets of their development such as Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Intelligence Quotient (IQ). CQ can be best described as the impervious catalyst to personality development for kids.

At an alarming juncture where one can have all the raw intelligence in the world but if one is unable to express their thoughts effectively they’re seen as “lagging”, we at Dolphin POD strive to foster and build 21st century skills in children for a future fit tomorrow. We not only understand and boost effective communication skills and strategies through various forms of activities, as effective communication is known to lead to success-related outcomes. They’re also mentored individually to gauge a better understanding of the importance of these communication skills activities and the positive impact of an amalgamation of digital media and in-person meaningful interactions. Communicating about thoughts and feelings strengthens children’s empathy, emotional regulation and positive relationship management. They learn to question everything and have a passion for challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries. Through activities such as balloon tower building, loop-da-loop, octopus tag etc. that call for collaborative functioning and cooperative dialogue, children learn to be mindful of the way they ‘deal with the world’ invigorating adults who are more resilient, adaptable and confident