The month of February is often associated with Valentine’s Day, a day that represents love and having being chosen as the loved of someone special. Recently I was listening to the audiobook Born a Crime by comedian Trevor Noah. In it he states that the greatest gift you can give someone is to choose them. He was speaking of his unique relationship with his father. I thought about that statement and how true it had been in my many years of experience working with children as an occupational therapist. Despite often challenging children in ways that seem temporarily unpleasant at times, they continue to love therapy with me because they feel like I am this special person that chooses to engage with them in meaningful play.
New Video Series: Amy’s Affirmations
This month I started a new series of videos called Amy’s Affirmations, and in the first episode I speak about this. I suggest that there is a simple way to have meaningful and engaging play with children. My suggestion is to start PMSing. Now my definition of PMSing is not traditional. It actually stands for being Present, Mindful, and Sincere. I believe these are the components needed to create a deeper connection through meaningful play.
Being present equates to giving a child your undivided attention. You try to eliminate distractions like cellphones, television, computers, conversations with others, etc. This can be challenging when many parents have learned to multitask to survive. It is worth a try because children will not only feel you are more present with them, they also learn to engage and not disconnect and prefer technology over human interaction.
Being mindful can mean that you are aware of a child’s preferences and needs. Often when you are busy you may not feel like you have time to consider what a child’s interests, likes, and dislikes are. You also may not realize that a task may not be appropriate for a child’s age and skill level. If you take a moment to tailor an activity specific to them, you will have a child that will more easily participate and remember the time fondly.
Being sincere relates to honesty more than seriousness. It is great to be animated and silly during play, but we should also be truthful and not pretend to have feelings we do not. For example, we should be honest about our personal interests when engaging in conversation with a child and not pretend to have the same level of admiration or obsession with something about which they feel strongly. Children can easily recognize when you are not sincere, and that can take away from any level of trust you have built over time.
I hope you find this tip helpful and that you start PMSing and engaging in more meaningful play. Your child will appreciate the gift of having chosen to play with them in a more meaningful way, and you will benefit from your special connection as well. If you would like to learn more ways to improve play time, check out our previous blogs and resources for activities based on age and skills. You can also check out the video for the first episode of Amy’s Affirmations here. Until next time, have a playful day!
Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L
Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning author, and founder of Playapy. For more information about Playapy and its PALS Handwriting Program, visit www.playapy.com or email email@example.com.