Dis­cover three rea­sons why chil­dren play roughly

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Deb Hop­per

Learn­ing to play and in­ter­act with other chil­dren or adults is one of the most com­plex skills that chil­dren learn. Play teaches chil­dren about de­vel­op­ing phys­i­cal skills and co-or­di­na­tion, de­vel­op­ing

cog­ni­tive and think­ing con­cep­tion, solv­ing prob­lems and en­hanc­ing mem­ory skills. It de­vel­ops lan­guage skills through play­ing and in­ter­act­ing with other chil­dren and adults. It de­vel­ops so­cial skills in­clud­ing learn­ing to

co­op­er­ate, ne­go­ti­ate, tak­ing turns and play­ing by the rules. Th­ese are not only im­por­tant for con­vers­ing and play­ing at home but will also de­velop th­ese skills at school when mak­ing friends and learn­ing in the class­room.

How­ever, some chil­dren may tend to play roughly. This may be a gen­eral pat­tern of play which is dis­rup­tive to other sib­lings or fam­ily mem­bers most of the time, or it could be an ir­reg­u­lar con­cern when they get frus­trated or feel left out at school.

There are three main rea­sons why chil­dren may play too roughly.

1. Dif­fi­culty with reg­is­ter­ing sen­sory in­for­ma­tion dur­ing play by not notic­ing or reg­is­ter­ing how heavy they are play­ing with toys or how firmly they are touch­ing or bump­ing other chil­dren.

2. Not fully un­der­stand­ing the cog­ni­tive or think­ing de­mands of play. This might in­clude not un­der­stand­ing the rules of play or find­ing it hard to prob­lem solve in the mid­dle of play.

3. Not un­der­stand­ing so­cial rules in­clud­ing turn tak­ing, recog­nis­ing minute cues of fa­cial ex­pres­sions and re­ac­tions and know­ing how to change their ac­tions quickly enough in play.

Here are three strate­gies for teach­ing chil­dren how not to play too roughly.

1. Help chil­dren to get a real phys­i­cal sense, or a ki­naes­thetic ex­pe­ri­ence of what it feels like to play OK or too roughly. To give them this ex­pe­ri­ence, we need to take them through ac­tiv­i­ties that show them what it feels like to be ‘too light’, ‘just right’ or ‘too rough’ in play.

This might look like:

• hav­ing an arm wres­tle with your child, pre­tend wrestling with ‘floppy or weak’ arms and ‘re­ally strong’ arms.

• colour­ing in ‘re­ally softly’, ‘too heav­ily’ and ‘just right’.

• hold­ing a pen­cil ‘too loosely’, ‘too tightly’ and ’just right’.

We need to give chil­dren a sense ‘in their body’ of ex­am­ples of what it looks and feels like to play too roughly.

2. Use a visual such as a traf­fic light sys­tem to give your child feed­back that they are play­ing too roughly.

• Green would mean that they are play­ing well.

• Yel­low is the warn­ing that play is get­ting a lit­tle rough and they need to be care­ful they don’t get too rough.

• Red is that play is too rough and


that they need to slow and calm down, take a break and per­haps do some­thing else.

Print out a pic­ture of a traf­fic light, put it on your fridge or some­where handy to look at and start us­ing state­ments like, ‘your play is in the yel­low warn­ing zone, you need to play gen­tler’, or ‘your play is in the red zone you need to be less rough’, or ‘per­haps it’s time to stop and take a break’.

3. Write a so­cial story about play­ing well and not too rough. This can be short and sim­ple such as: ‘I love to play with my lit­tle brother. We have lots of fun. Some­times I get too ex­cited and can touch him too heav­ily which might hurt him. This is not the best. If I touch him too firmly, I might be touch­ing too hard and mum might say I’m in the red zone. To play safely, I can take a break and come back later and play nicely in the green zone.’ Add some pho­tos of your chil­dren or clip art of kids play­ing to il­lus­trate the story. Write or print it out and sta­ple it into a book to read at bed time to re­in­force the best way of play­ing and not play­ing too roughly.

At times, we may feel at our wits end when chil­dren are play­ing too roughly. How­ever, us­ing a com­bined ap­proach, through their body (touch and ki­naes­thetic senses) and through their cog­ni­tive un­der­stand­ing (ex­ter­nal visual tools e.g. traf­fic light or so­cial pic­ture sto­ries), you can re­ally help chil­dren to learn to play with­out be­ing too rough.

Deb Hop­per, Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist, au­thor & work­shop pre­sen­ter. Deb is pas­sion­ate about em­pow­er­ing par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors to un­der­stand the un­der­ly­ing rea­sons of why chil­dren strug­gle with be­hav­iour, self-es­teem and sen­sory pro­cess­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. As a prac­tic­ing, Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist, she un­der­stands the daily strug­gles that chil­dren, par­ents and teach­ers face. Deb is the co-au­thor of the CD Sen­sory Songs for Tots, and au­thor of Re­duc­ing Melt­downs and Im­prov­ing Con­cen­tra­tion: The Just Right Kids Tech­nique. Deb is avail­able for clinic & phone/Skype con­sul­ta­tions (02 6555 9877) & can be reached on her web­site.

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