Connecting Through Play


Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a therapist and adoption home study specialist in Austin, TX. She blogs about parenting, adoption, and adoptive parenting. We are happy to re-publish this important message on parenting and connecting with your children! You can also find Robyn on twitter and facebook.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed that the year seems to end on November 1. We’ve barely packed away Halloween costumes and all of the sudden we’re singing “auld lang syne”. The 60 days in between are gone in the blink of an eye. We’ve got pumpkin pies to bake, holiday parties to smile through, and a Christmas card list that seems to grow exponentially each passing year. Spending time with our children creeps lower and lower on our list of “things to do” until we realize we haven’t spent five minutes of uninterrupted time with them in over six weeks. What we do notice is that our children seem to have less frustration tolerance and their behaviors are a bit more difficult to deal with. Our patience is limited (or gone).

Feeling connected to our children is an essential element of good parenting and a peaceful home. When children need to reconnect, their behaviors become more annoying and downright obnoxious. Typical discipline methods don’t work; what they need isn’t a time out- it’s time with us.

Children connect through play. Laughter. Silly games. Fits of giggles and tickles. It’s hard for parents to find the energy for play- to really get down on the floor with our children and have fun. A lot of us have forgotten how to play. Luckily, play is fun and laughter is contagious. When we give ourselves permission to forget about Christmas cards this year, or only bake one pie for Thanksgiving, we can use that time to give our children the gift of play, and ultimately the chance to reconnect. When children are connected to their parents, they increase their ability to handle frustration and disappointment. They are better able to manage their complex emotions and they feel more confident.

Taking time to reconnect with our children is a small investment when compared to what we get in return. The investment in time does not have to be substantial- our children benefit from even five minutes of play. The difficult part is figuring out what to do. Think about the last time your child dissolved into a fit of giggles. What makes your child laugh from his belly and beg “Again! Again!” You know what gets your child giggling, but sometimes it’s nice to add to a few tricks to our repertoire.

  • Sock Game– See who can get the other person’s socks off first.
  • Hide and Seek– When you find your child, pretend you’ve found the scariest monster imaginable or when you child is searching for you, jump out and scare him.
  • Animal Talk– Talk to each other using only animal sounds and pretend to have a conversation.
  • Hold your child in a big embrace. Start to loosen your grip and just as your child is about to escape, grab her back into your arms declaring “I love you SO much, I can’t let you go!”
  • Dance Party!
  • Tickle Time– All children love to be tickled. Tickle his feet or his tummy and then stop abruptly, becoming very serious. Moments later you’re overcome with the urge to tickle again- which will take your child by surprise each time!
  • Chase your child for a moment, pretending your couldn’t possibly catch her. Suddenly catch you child, grabbing him into a full embrace, then let him go and do it again!
  • Name Games– Use familiar songs and stories but incorporate your child’s name.

Spend time laughing. Give your undivided attention. Don’t answer the phone immediately. You’ll notice you have more patience for your child. You’ll feel more in control of your life this busy holiday season. Those Christmas cards don’t have to go out, but your child needs to feel connected to you.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.