Some of you reading this may actually remember an activity called “recess” when you were in school. I don’t know about you, but it was the highlight of my school day! In recent years many grammar school schedules have cut down on the time allotted for recess, and some have eliminated it completely. For many children today the only form of “play” they get is in front of a screen, which is really not true play.
For adopted and foster children who have experienced trauma (which is all of them), active physical play is especially important. It has been shown that children who are “play-deprived” may have numerous internal and external problems, including the inability to pick up on social cues, impaired brain development, poor anger control, lack of empathy, withdrawal and isolation, and an overall difficulty in regulating their emotions.
Active play is critical for all children. It provides all of the “opposite” of what is described above. As I mentioned in my last post, active physical play also releases natural hormones in the body called endorphins which have been described as “the body’s natural antidepressant”. Again, active play does not have to be overly-competitive, as for many previously traumatized children intense competition may have an opposite effect, triggering anger outbursts or withdrawal from the game.
Almost every evening as I sit in my office on the second floor of our home, I look out the window at our neighbors who adopted a 5-year-old girl last year. Each night I see the mom and dad playing hopscotch with her, teaching her how to jump rope, playing tag, horseshoes, “London Bridge” and most recently, teaching her how to ride her bike without training wheels. I have seen an amazing metamorphosis in this child’s behavior over the past year. Regular play has been an important part of this little girl’s development as well as her healing from trauma. Play with your kids! It is therapeutic for them and also for you!
Photo courtesy of Unsplash