6 Play Activities to Improve Your Child’s Behavior
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When children misbehave, there’s often a reason for it, according to experts, who point out that understanding the behaviors can help you manage them more effectively, especially during play time.
"Our bodies want to be in balance and, ideally, we seek out what we need when we need it. When we are hungry, we eat. When we are thirsty, we drink. But when it comes to children whose sensory and nervous systems don’t process efficiently or effectively, this restorative balance may simply look like bad or undesired behavior,” says Ellen Metrick, a toy design consultant who has a background in special education
During playtime, children who are understimulated may seek out sensory stimulation by spinning around repeatedly or intentionally banging into walls or even other children. Children who are overstimulated may get agitated and retreat from sensory stimulation by crawling under tables.
“While playtime is when some of these behaviors may be exhibited, it’s also a chance for parents and caretakers to help children regulate their sensory system,” Ellen says. “Remember that every individual is different, and if something isn’t working for your child, you can tweak the activity to fit his or her needs.”
Whether your child requires more noise and excitement to satisfy energy needs or less to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, there are ways to cater to those individual needs. Here are six ideas from Metrick and The Genius of Play, an initiative which raises awareness about the importance of play.
If your child craves more sensory stimulation, consider having these activities.
1Climb on a jungle gym. Hanging on monkey bars and climbing ladders use a child’s own body as resistance to send signals to the brain and help organize the nervous system.
2Have a dance party. Games like freeze-dance and musical chairs add structure and auditory processing. Children receive feedback from their muscles and joints with every step they take.
3Pop some bubbles. Jumping up and down on a sheet of bubble wrap is fun and the deep pressure will trigger sensory receptors, telling the brain how to control movement and balance.
For children who need less distraction, these ideas can help kids focus.
1Tone down the sound. Removing extraneous sounds, such as music, television and the whirring of a washing machine, lessen distracting stimuli and improve the child’s focus and engagement.
2Play at a table. Using a placemat or cookie sheet under a toy or activity at an empty table provides visual boundaries for focused play. It helps to have feet firmly planted on the ground, rather than dangling, so consider using a child-sized play table.
3Create a quiet area. Adding soft pillows and blankets to a cozy corner gives children a soothing space to seek respite from environmental stimuli.
More ideas for keeping children busy