Go Out and Play for Your Child’s Emotional Well-Being

Mayra-LopezBy Mayra Lopez, Registered Marriage Family Therapist Intern

Child Guidance Center’s Mayra Lopez, registered marriage family therapist intern, talks about how important it is for children to express themselves through play. This is the first in a three-part series.

Apparently, child’s play is not so simple. Children use play to communicate their feelings and needs, just the way that adults use words to express themselves. Therefore, creating opportunities for children to express themselves through play is essential for their growth.

Think about it. Children usually don’t have the verbal capabilities to sit down and discuss their feelings. However, they can paint a picture to express their concerns, dance to relieve stress, complete a sewing project to gain confidence or play hide-and-seek to bond with friends.

As a parent, consider all the opportunities for creative playtime. Here are eight ideas to vary your children’s play and help them express themselves:

  • Make sculptures with Play-Doh or Crayola’s Model Magic Clay, both of which clean up easily.
  • Roll out the butcher paper, along with crayons, markers, paint, chalk, pastels and other art supplies.
  • Make a mini-sandbox using clean sand, a plastic container and water. Encourage children to mold the sand with their hands, which can be especially soothing.
  • Use old jars filled with dried beans, rice or coins to make homemade maracas or shakers. Put on a pop tune and have a dance party!
  • Teach your child to knit, crochet or sew, starting with small projects that can provide a sense of accomplishment.
  • Encourage children to pursue sports or extracurricular activities that promote self-expression, such as ballet, soccer, acting or singing.
  • Recycle old magazines to create interesting collages. Have your young artist pick the theme for his or her masterpiece.
  • Get children started on journaling as a long-term habit. Provide a prompt-a-day, such as a story about a lost puppy or a favorite superhero. (We’ll write more on journaling later in this series of articles.)

Remember, everyone has the seeds of creativity within them. But they need a chance for that creativity to grow. Therefore, don’t judge, criticize or interpret your children’s art. Rather, invite them to share their work with you and describe how they feel about it. This will help build their verbal confidence as well. If children are shy, make sure they don’t hide their artwork. Ask them questions about what the activity meant to them.

Also, get your whole family involved. Next time, we’ll provide tips for holding weekly art nights, a simple family tradition that can spark everyone’s creativity.