Imagine a magic device. This device would receive our children's cues and translate them into words that we, adults, could make sense of. For instance, it would translate:
- "I hate you, dad!" into "I love you but I am mad at you at the same time, so I'm confused!"
- The child hits the mom and runs under the table, into "I am scared to ask for closeness because I don't want you to reject me. So I'll hurt you instead. Can you come and hold me?"
- "This toy is stupid!" into "I cannot figure out how to assemble these train tracks, can you help me?"
"If only this magic translator existed," I can hear you thinking. To your surprise, I have good news. It exists. It's called: play.
Starting from the moment they are born, children communicate through play. Play is rooted in evolution. It's our way of learning, building relationships, healing, and surviving.
Primates play too. For instance, chimpanzees tickle each other's palms, chase and tease another, even play blindman's bluff. They also make up after a fight through an imaginary play. After the play, they groom each other as a sign of restored friendship.
Play is such a huge concept that it would take tens of letters from me to you to cover its entirety. Play can be with toys and without them. Play can become a tool of communication and an attempt for closeness. It can form a safe space for emotions and healing, or it can simply help with energy discharge.
Play surely is fun. But it serves a bigger purpose than just having fun.
This week I wrote an article titled 3 surprising reasons why our children want to play. In it, you'll see that children want to play for various reasons other than just having fun: for closeness, confidence, and emotional recovery.
Whenever you cannot make sense of your children's behavior, put them to play. Even a silly pillow fight where they beat you up can be enough to make them feel closer, more confident and relaxed. This connection can help you read the reasons behind their previously troubling behavior.
But is all play loaded with meaning? What about "regular" play such as assembling Legos or building towers?
When parents pay enough attention, they can find cues in any type of play. For instance, a child building towers only to tear them down right after might be discharging emotions bottled up in other areas of life. Or a child holding a doll hostage in her Lego fortress might be expressing the anxiety induced by months of home quarantine.
"What's my role in these plays?" I can hear you asking. Glad you asked:
"When you are dealing with a child,
keep all your wits about you,
and sit on the floor."
Austin O'Malley (I discovered this quote in the book "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence J. Cohen.)
We might not read every single emotion behind our children's games but we can pay more attention to how they play.
Do you ever sit on the floor and let your child freely guide you into a play? Hit reply and let me know!
🥄 Nurturing my favorite moms and dads
This week's theme is play! Here's this week's article from the blog:
3 surprising reasons why our children want to play: Play has an irreplaceable role in children's development. It is an attempt to learn, express, and communicate. In this article, you will find out the 3 reasons why children play.
That's it for this week! ❤️
If you've enjoyed this letter, please send it to another parent!
Send me your thoughts! I'm on Twitter and love seeing a DM in my inbox. You can also hit reply or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next Saturday!
Love, Basak (founder of Apparent)