As producers of wooden blocks for kids, we often wonder how we can make Play better for children.
Having amazing Building Blocks is a great choice, but what else can you do to help your little one’s development during play time?
Today we asked Mackenzie Weintraub, Early Childhood Education Consultant that specialises in children social/emotional development, how to help children express their emotions in a healthy and constructive way.
If you are wondering if there’s something more you can do for your little one, in this article we listed all the tips and tricks she shared with us about the following questions:
If you prefer, you can also watch the full interview.
Play is a great time to work on social/emotional skills. As parents and caregivers we can get in there, get down on children’s eye level, and help them talk about their emotions, and help them label their emotions.
” oh gosh you look really frustrated that your tower keeps falling over” or “you are disappointed that you can’t figure out where that puzzle piece goes” or” you are really excited because you were able to put 3 building blocks together” or “you are really proud your puzzle is totally completed”. Play is a great way to point those emotions out for children and also to do some modelling of our own emotions.
Yes, pointing out the emotions is a great way to do so. “You look really happy today, I see you re smiling!” or “You look really sad that we had to put the toys away for lunch”. It’s very important to give children that language and that wide range of emotional terms. We also can use visuals, show them different faces and emotions and have children point at the illustrations. Sometimes children won’t want to talk about it, or they may not have the language yet, but may be able to identify with a picture of a child who’s feeling the emotions that they’re feeling.
Problem solving is something that comes up a lot in Play and we can help children talk about their problems. If we have siblings or playdates that’s a great opportunity to practice. Children often have social problems that come up in play and as the adults we can take the mediator role and, first of all, help children calm down, because when children are upset they can’t access the part of their brain that does all of their problem solving. Maybe we can take some deep breaths together and once they are calm, then we hear from each child. “What’s going on? How are you feeling? What happened?” And we let children talk through the problems and then we help them come up with solution. The challenge on us as adults is to accept the solutions the children come up with. When we do that we find that children tend to be more creative and more successful in their problem solving.
It is definitely a challenging time, I have two littles of my own, a 4 and a 6 years old, and we’re still trying to see how this pandemic is going to affect our young children in the long term, but there are lot of things that we can do even if we are isolated in our own home that will help children’s social emotional development. The first thing is being a nurturing and responsive caregiver for the child, responding to children’s verbal cues, when they are calling your name and talking to you, as well as non verbals, pulling on your arm, or tapping on your shoulder, so being really responsive. And I know that it can be really challenging when some of us are multitasking. Maybe we are working at home and we have children at home, so letting children know “Hey, I’m in a meeting right now but in 10 minutes I can come over and see the fort you’ve built”. Letting children know that you are there for them: that’s the #1 way that we build resilience for children and support children who experience trauma. It’s also that foundational support for all children social emotional development. So nurturing and responsive caregiving is that BIG ticket item.
An other thing that we can do is we can provide really predictable routines, so keeping various parts of the day in the same order. For example we wake up, we have breakfast, we brush our teeth, we have play time, we go for a walk and we have lunch. That predictability can be really reassuring for children and then if we are really clear and we teach children our expectations for each of those routines, that helps children know how we are moving throughout the day. And then last thing that’s really important is helping children talk about their emotions throughout the day. And talking about our own emotions too. Children are very perceptive and they know when things are coming up for adults, so you can acknowledge times when you are feeling anxious or scared, and also talk about things that you are excited, or hopeful about! And then helping children talk about how they’re feeling and have some times when you check in and talk about what’s going on for them.
You can do it in play. Something else that we like to do a lot is we talk about our highs and lows of the day, and then we encourage children to tell us about how they felt through those highs and lows. “So how did it make you feel when you got a letter in the mail” or “you looked so excited when you opened that piece of mail from your cousin or “ when you had your low today, and your toy broke you seemed so sad and disappointed when that happened”. Incorporating that into the day, we do it at dinner time cause that’s an easy time for us to check in as a family and talk about how we felt throughout the day.
Disclaimer: Mackenzie is not affiliated with Himiku nor is specifically recommending to buy any Himiku products. These are Mackenzie's unbiased opinions about the questions we asked her.