Llamau's Play Therapist and Children's Young People's Outreach Worker, Hannah Owen, shares her advice to help support children during social distancing and self isolation. 

Most children will remember how their family home felt during the Coronavirus pandemic more than anything specific about the virus. Children are always watching and learning through us, and so we need to show how to respond healthily to stress and uncertainty. Let us teach our children resilience, not teach them to panic.

Play is the most natural way children communicate. While adults can talk about their experiences and emotions, play is a child’s language, so children will use play and toys to express their thoughts and how they feel.

As schools have now closed there will be lots of free time at home. Child-centred play is extremely important for a child’s learning and brain development. 30 minutes of child-centred play can really make a difference to a child. Child centred play involves the parent giving the child their full attention, the focus is solely on the child, allowing them to lead the play and make their own choices, this in turn allows the child to express any thoughts, feelings, emotions or worries that may be on their mind.

There are several different types of play:

  • Role play
  • Imaginary play
  • Sensory Play
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Story telling
  • Puppets
  • Imaginative figures
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Online tools

If you are concerned about your child holding their feelings and emotions back or not being able to communicate their worries with you, it may be useful to use play to engage with them. It is important to create a safe environment for them to explore their feelings and thoughts. It may also be useful to use your own home tools that you can adapt to the needs of your child.

For example, home tools may include:

Creating a worry monster or a worry box
Children are given the opportunity to write their worries down and place them in the box or the monster. The monster or box can magically take the worries away and you as a parent will see first-hand what the worries and concerns of your child are.

Building an anger volcano
This can be done with building blocks, paper-mache, play doh etc. Discuss the volcano rumbling and then erupting and relate that to the child’s brain erupting when they become angry. Address what it is that makes them feel like they want to erupt and what can be done to stop that from happening. 

Creating a helping hands tree
Using paint to make hand prints or drawing around the child’s hand and cutting them out, create leaves to add on a helping hands tree. On each leaf ask the child to identify an adult or person in their life they feel they can trust and talk to if they have anything on their mind that is worrying them.

This may sound obvious, but most of the time, children really do just want to have fun. However, making learning fun can sometimes take some thought and planning.

Here are some top tips to make their home learning experience fun and engaging for your child.

1. Share and show enthusiasm

Although we live in a world which can be very stressful, children live in a world of excitement and imaginative wonder. Don’t be afraid to enter this world with them! Show this enthusiasm in your tone of voice and body language.

2. Create a game out of it

Challenge your child with games and problem solving activities; show them how good they are at something. This will build their self-esteem and also engage children to see if they can improve on themselves and challenge themselves to reaching a personal goal. It is also a good idea to set up a reward system, which acknowledges their progress and their engagement.

3. Give your child a role or responsibility

The best way to learn is to do it yourself and children respond well when thinking they are trusted to do something new to them. Include them in daily activities they don’t normally take part in. A child will feel more relaxed if they know what to expect from you and what is expected of them. Create rules that both your child and you as the parent have to follow. Consistency is key and children love routine. A structured routine gives them a safe place to play.

4. Use colourful visuals

Colourful visuals are important to engage children; their attention is drawn by colour. Resources such as storybooks, flash cards and making posters and comic books strips are really useful. Colourful storybooks are a powerful way to engage children and is a particularly powerful way of helping the child to understand morals, share information and learn positive life lessons.

5. Discuss real experiences

Even if you can’t go outdoors you can still have real life experiences. Children love using their senses to see, smell, touch, taste and hear. Dramatic role-plays, hands on science experiments, planting seeds in the garden and cooking and tasting the result are just some ideas!

If you'd like further information or advice from Hannah please get in touch. 

Email: [email protected]
Call: 02920860255