Promoting Healing Through Play in Shelters part 2
It’s not just the things you put into an environment that are important—a play space is made even more effective when adults interact with children in positive ways.
Explore Strategies for Positive Adult-Child Interactions
It’s not just the things you put into an environment that are important—a play space is made even more effective when adults interact with children in positive ways. You can build trust, give kids a sense of control, and use positive language to ensure that play time is a time of joy and healing.
Watch this video of Horizons’ staff and volunteers talking about—and demonstrating—some strategies for fostering positive interactions at their site. As you watch, write down one question, observation, or idea sparked by the five points the staff is making:
- Following kids’ lead
- Giving kids choices
- Using positive language
- Supporting parents
Ideas Into Action: Parent-Child Bonding Time
Print and copy this page and leave in an area where children and parents spend time together. Through playfulness, rhyme, rhythm, and repetition, parents remind children of the most important strategies for coping with crisis.
When adults display confidence and optimism for a better future, children naturally feel more secure. Parents and children can read this poem aloud together, using the icons to tell who reads what.
Suggest that parents:
- repeat some of the language and strategies throughout their day
- think of other ideas they would add to the poem, and write them on the back (they don’t have to rhyme!)
- read the poem together again and again
- fold it to keep with their belongings (or to display it in their space)
Ideas Into Action: Coloring Page
During and after a traumatic experience, our brains may be “hijacked” by fear, anxiety, or anger. Doing a nonverbal activity, such as art, together can help us reconnect and get “unstuck.”
Helping parents and children interact lovingly and creatively in your space can be as simple as setting out paper and crayons. Print and copy this page and invite parents and children to sit together and share a few moments of relaxation.
This coloring page can help adults communicate important ideas to children without saying a word: We can relax together. We can have a good time together. We can concentrate. I am here with you. I am listening. I am interested in you. We can share feelings. We can make something beautiful, even when the world around us feels ugly.
Children can use crayons or markers. Colored pencils or thin-tipped markers work well for the detailed “adult” areas, but crayons will work too! Here are some other tips:
- If possible, parents and children should sit side by side in a quiet space with a surface.
- Children color the large Muppet image, adults color the more detailed background.
- There’s no right or wrong way to color; the goal is to sit and relax together. It’s okay to sit without talking, too!
- Parents can use the tips and conversation starters at the bottom on the page and, if possible, display their work.
- Children might also draw their own families on the back of the page. Creative self-expression can be a great way to show how you feel, using no words at all!
Promoting Healing Through Play in Shelters
You can enrich any space to create more opportunities for play—and healing.