Why do children love the boxes toys come in, more than the toys themselves?
Relate NI’s People Development Manager has written a piece on the importance of play for children and young people this Children’s Mental Health Week.
Boxes give children permission to imagine a different world. Big boxes can be spaceships, dens, or a time machine. Smaller boxes a pet bed, a car, or a house for their figures.
Play offers children time out from their busy adult-led schedules. In School, afterschool activities, and sports, a child follows instructions. Playing is child-led. They construct the space; the narrative is their own. Just as we appreciate activities, which slow the pace of life, offering time to breathe, play is a child’s time-out, normal rules are set aside, and imagination and curiosity take over. Play can be messy, and it can be loud, but all children need the time to govern and direct what is going to happen. As a parent, your role will be to give permission for play to happen and allow resources around the house to be used in a slightly different way to extend the play that is happening.
While children love for parents to be part of their play, it is important that you don’t take over what is happening. If doing a craft activity, let the child lead. It doesn’t have to be picture perfect, nor do you have to stick with the rules of what colour something could be. Dinosaurs can be bright pink, just go with the flow.
Outdoor play is both good for you and your child. The brighter nights approaching offers that chance to walk and not to rush. Collect sticks, and leaves, and spend time exploring the undergrowth if you dare for creepy crawlies.
So, the Children’s Mental Health Week Challenge, as if you need another one, is to observe the play in the house, and ask yourself, could I add to the play by subtly adding bits and pieces from around the house, fabrics, pots, etc or offering myself as a character/superhero/monster? Could you set up a play idea; create a den, collect cardboard boxes, and make something that they can use to develop into a play resource, dress up, and be directed by their narrative? Remember how delightful it was to be lost in play, totally immersed in the here and now, if you do, pass it on this Children’s Mental Health Week!
Relate NI children’s counselling service can also be delivered through a range of therapeutic disciplines including Play, Music, Clay and Art and can support children with stress, anger, family difficulties, change, bulling and relationships.