“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Parents often ask what they can do at home to help their child meet therapy goals. As therapists we often have recommendations and strategies for home to give you, and we will certainly send home homework from time to time. But, the truth is that one of the best things you can do at home for your child is play with them.
Play with your child – it sounds so simple but in our busy lives we often forget the joy of just being together and playing. Especially, if you have a child who needs therapy services – the joy of play can often be replaced with what feels like an endless schedule of therapy and doctor’s appointments.
In Bialer and Miller’s excellent resource book No Longer A Secret, Dr. Miller suggests the idea of “double the play time for every hour in therapy”. So, if you spend 30 minutes driving to therapy, 1 hour at therapy, and 30 minutes driving home then your job as a parent is to play double that amount of time with your child or 4 hours of play before your next appointment.
Playing with your child means actively engaging with them, not observing them play by themselves or with siblings and/or peers. For example, if you go to the playground with your child, don’t only sit on the bench and watch. Join them in Play! Play tag, hide and seek, or relay games on the slide. See if you can make up an obstacle course together and time each other as you take turns. Make up a silly song on the swing together. At home, don’t be afraid of building a fort in the living room or using your Amazon™ boxes to make a car or a play house.
Our relationships are foundational to building the skills we need for life. Children build these relationships and skills through play. Play is the child’s most important work. If we join them there and speak the language of play we can help them build skills and relationships for success in all aspects of their life. Play more! That’s the best homework I can give you.
Rachel Ashcraft, OTR/L