Recently I learned of a very powerful, but inexpensive, innovative program conducted by Joyce Victor, MSW, ACSW, who is in private practice in Seattle, Washington.
I learned that once a month she has an hour of free play for roughly twenty caregivers of preschool-aged children (primarily mothers, an occasional father, as well as some care practitioners). This session has so much appeal that 100% attendance is assured.
In this session participants are asked to try out the games, activities, or playful interactions they have learned from the children in their care. Doing the play, games, or activities provides so much fun for the joint interaction that they have a hard time giving it up. Most importantly, Joyce Victor, sponsor of the hour, participates or responds to questions but she never uses their input for interpretation or embellishment. She conveys her approval of their active play by her own joyful participation as well as by her visible pleasure in their playful involvement. She builds on her belief that parents “must learn to play with their children on a regular basis to build up the bank of good feelings and the positive relationship which will make change possible".
In fact, Joyce reminded me that many caregivers “come to professionals requesting help in dealing with their children who are spirited, oppositional, or aggressive...". The friendship with a child must be built on a time of regular play when the parent is available to be creative, silly, and an appreciative audience to the child's exploration. At the heart of this kind of play is the willingness to follow the child's lead without trying to teach or coach or correct. Children spend so much time needing to follow adult direction and this gives a legitimate arena for the child to be in charge.
Many parents report a new awareness of the delightful developments and thinking by their child as a result of sifting quietly and letting the child's play unfold without adult management... Some parents do not want their child to be “bossy” but in this one arena the freedom to boss, which is part of the growing sense of competence, should be encouraged.... Best of all, playing together strengthens the bond of friendship, which is at the heart of family life.
I am introducing Joyce Victor’s “playtime" as a novel idea possibly to be repeated by you in scheduled sessions for parents or for use by caregivers. Please note that Joyce’s expressions of enjoyment are hands-on and inexpensive. They can be yours too.
Joyce Victor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have more fun in play.