Being a kid can be frustrating & confusing. Dozens of times a day you’re told you can’t do what you want for reasons that don’t make sense to you. That’s hard enough, but add a global pandemic & things get MUCH more difficult.
Play is one of the best tools we have to help during these times. Here are some strategies you can use to help you & your little one adjust & re-connect through play.
When our kids feel out of control, confused & powerless, power-reversal games can really help. What are they? Power reversal games are just that, activities in which the parent-child roles are reversed: your child is strong, capable & in charge & you are (or pretend to be) inept, clumsy & weak.
Here are some examples of ways to incorporate this style of play:
Be the couch (or other soft surface) “guard” & have your child try to get past you. Have them use their physical strength OR think up creative tricks to get around you (such as distracting you, going between your legs, or even hypnotizing you). Make a big deal when they do get past, going on about how clever/strong they are.
Pretend your arms don’t work & allow your child to feed you. You can use things like apples/bread/cheese to minimise mess OR try in the bath/garden for a full-on messy experience.
Make up a silly rule such as “no giggling,” “no smiling” or “no blinking” & then make a big (pretend) fuss about it when they break the rule. This allows them to make light of an area in their lives that is very challenging & will actually help them more easily follow the rules later.
Follow the Leader
Do everything that your child wants to do, even if it is uncomfortable (crawling on your knees all over the house), unpleasant (pretending to eat worms), or nerve-wracking (making loud screaming noises). Your child wants to find out if you really will follow their lead!
Run around and have your child try to catch you and tackle you to the ground. You can use the tackle as an opportunity to be physically close to your child by hugging or kissing him while you’re on the ground. You can mix this up by pretending to be dinosaurs, monsters, fairies or any kind of magical creature.
When pillow fighting, follow your child’s lead, only hit as hard as it takes to get lots of giggles. Make a big show of it when you get it, falling over dramatically.
Take turns to ask each other questions and the other must always answer ‘sausages’. The goal is for them to make you laugh with the absurd question/answer combination E.g., “what comes out of the queen’s nose?” “Sausages!”. It’s your job to try and remain as serious as you can.
Push Mummy/Daddy Over
Get on your knees and pretend to be really, really strong, saying “nobody will ever be able to push ME over!” Then let your child push you over, making a big deal about how strong they are. Adjust how hard/easy it is to push you over based on your child’s age, strength & temperament.
MAKE PLAY PART OF YOUR ROUTINE
Routine is an important source of safety and stability for children. COVID has probably made your family’s routine a bit different. This means it’s even more important to schedule regular times to play together and connect. Scheduling time, even 5-10 minutes of undivided attention a few times a week, can make a big difference to your child’s wellbeing. Mealtimes can even be a good place to schedule some fun and creative play: have a dinner picnic, add blue food colouring to your child’s breakfast cereal. Try to take the ordinary and make it extra-ordinary. We all need a bit of lightness and fun in our day, especially now.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It’s normal to feel stressed, worried or anxious during uncertain times. Remember that this situation is completely new – you might be struggling to make sense of things yourself, whilst also trying to maintain a sense of normality & help your children understand what is happening. As cliché as it’s become, we really are in “unprecedented times”. Give yourself some grace & compassion. We’re all doing the best we can.