A Park Problem

Ways to build flexibility and ease children’s disappointment and frustration when things don’t go as planned.

During a health emergency plans change without warning, but you can help children manage unexpected surprises. Watch this video together and point out that even though Julia and Samuel didn’t get to go to the park as they’d planned, they still had a fun day together. Afterward, consider these ideas for the next time children are having a hard time with sudden changes:

  • Practice taking belly breaths together to relax or calm down.
  • Prepare in advance for the possibility that some playground activities may not be available when your child wants to play on them. Bring along a small picture board that illustrates a few of your child’s favorite activities, cross out the options that are not available, and have your child choose from the remaining pictures/activities.
  • Gather materials for an on-the-go sensory toolkit and put them in a bag. You might include squishy balls or putty, pinwheels, fidget spinners, or bubbles. You might also include a small notebook and crayons or a comfort item like a stuffed animal or a soft piece of fabric.
  • If you’re on a sidewalk or safe concrete surface, play Samuel’s game of “Don’t Step on the Crack”! Or, try other games such as Follow the Leader, I Spy, or singing a song like Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and moving around.
  • Think of ways to substitute simple indoor activities when children’s outdoor choice isn’t possible. For instance:
    • Rolling a soft ball such as a tennis ball on the floor indoors, or throwing a beanbag into a laundry basket.
    • Setting up a simple indoor obstacle course with several different stations (tasks might include crawling under a string stretched across two chairs, marching in place, pushing toy cars from one end of the room to another, putting balls into a container, and so on).
    • Sitting on the floor facing each other with legs spread apart, hold each other’s hands, and sway back and forth to “see saw.”