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How to Follow Your Child's Lead.

Following Your Child’s Lead

What does it mean to follow your child’s lead when engaging in play?

Although the concept is easy to understand, the practical application is difficult. We have many “schemas” or play plans already completed in our minds. We know what we can do with Legos or blocks or how to place the animals in the zoo or barn. We have had past experience with these toys and feel competent at completing our game plan. Our children however, still enjoy experimenting and randomly placing a variety of toys in many different areas and seeing how it looks or feels. When we interfere with this experimentation the child looses his motivation and creativity. In other words, we spoil their fun. Do that too many times and they don’t want to play with you or worse, they think YOUR way is the only way.

When playing with your child, allow them to begin the sequence of play and then follow what they have started, add language or a movement, but don’t change the plan or move from the original idea even if it doesn’t fit with your comfort zone. Jean Piaget, child psychologist, reminds us that children 0-2 are in the sensorimotor stage and learn by physically exploring their environment. Later when the child is 2-3 he enters the preoperational stage that Piaget explains is characterized by the use of symbols. A block may become a remote control or a telephone and a box may become a spaceship or train. Parents need to stand back and observe what type of play their child is engaged in and enter it cautiously. Many of our children who have disability or delay, have trouble with functional play, so observing what they enjoy or how the explore will help you shape the environment and build on what motivates them. Look through the eyes of your child then get down and play! If a child is building a block tower and then knocks it down over and over again for the pleasure of that experience; let them. If after a time you want to add to that experience, add a animal that sits atop the tower or use that animal to knock down a tower. You can also comment on what he is doing or ask questions to illicit language and help him decide on the next action. As a parent you can learn a lot from your child’s play. When he is learning about the world around him you are learning about how your child interacts with the world.

Following your Child’s Lead in Play Includes:

  1. Standing back and observing the play

  2. Entering it by imitating your child’s actions or adding just one other idea into the play

  3. Commenting or offering words to use as the play unfolds

  4. Putting yourself into your child’s perspective and “see” their play as they do

  5. Accepting their play, and shaping the environment to encourage development.

Scary Separations

Scary Separations:

“It's natural for your young child to feel anxious when you say goodbye. Although it can be difficult, separation anxiety is a normal stage of development”.

Separations are hard on both, the parent and the child. Babies need our complete care and attention. We do everything for them and respond to their differing cries and celebrate their milestones. We build an attachment over time with our child that is like no other. When the time comes to separate from one another, even momentarily, it can be very difficult. One of the hardest parts of being a parent is to allow your child’s independence to grow.

“A baby will naturally become an independent toddler, so it is not your job to make them independent, but rather to provide a secure environment that allows them to become an independent toddler. “ Dr. Sears

Here are some suggestions on how to prepare both yourself and your child for separation.

If your child has trouble with ALL SEPARATIONS, begin with just walking out of the room when he/she is calm and happy. Tell him where you are going and that you will be right back. If she cries, remind her you will be right back and go out of sight and come back in a minute. When you come back, remind her that you said you would and be happy. This can become routine and soon the length of time will increase.

If possible, have a friend or family member, who is familiar, stay with your child for a short time, while you go on an errand or take a walk or shower. Prepare your child for this short caregiving time. Allow for the emotion… sadness is real. Reflect that she is sad, but that you will be coming back; and then go. ( Never walk away without saying goodbye). When you come back make sure you remind her that you told her that you were coming back, and you did.

Prepare your child for child care by visiting the place, taking pictures of the caregiver and creating a “story” that will help your child feel comfortable. Read that story often beforehand.

Prepare yourself: if you show confidence in your decision, he will respond better. If you are obviously sad or anxious, your child will be too.

Give your child an item of yours to hold and care for while you are gone. Even a picture of the two of you might be good, talk it over with the caregiver. If your child has a comfort item, bring it.

Leave after saying comforting words and giving hugs. Do not linger.

“The pain of this initial separation will be balanced by her and your awareness that she needs to separate. The attraction of other children and group activities balances the pain of leaving the safe coziness of home” T Berry Brazleton

When your return you can say, I bet you are so proud of yourself, you stayed here and had fun!

Find out from the caregiver what she did for that day that made him happy and remind him of that activity tomorrow when you separate again.

“Children this age can still flip-flop between wanting to be independent and needing to run back to the comfort and security of Mom or Dad's arms. Still, helping your child cope with separation now will make future separations easier. That's especially true if your child has a shy, anxious, or timid temperament, since he may be more sensitive to separation”. www.

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