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Monday, September 2, 2019

9 Ways That Play Preps Children for Healthy Self-Expression

Raising my two kiddos, I have dealt with a wide spectrum of behaviors. I've handled the happiest of moments with a heart full of love and the terrible temper tantrums that make every parent want to pull their hair out. And through it all, I have come to find that as children learn how to express themselves in a healthy, productive way, the extreme emotions and extreme expressions become less. My kids are not toddlers anymore, but I remember it well and I would like to share with you all what I've learned about the importance of healthy self-expression and how to encourage it in children in the hopes that something will click with you and your toddler or preschooler.

Dynamic/Pretend Play

Dynamic play is a type of play in which children accept and apply roles and act out scenes and scenarios, either realistic or unrealistic. Playing out scenarios offers children the opportunity to explore different possibilities while feeling in control. That control may make the scenario feel safe and encourage self-expression. Through dynamic play children can explore different "what ifs" and the emotions that go along with them. For example, a group of children playing out a scenario involving a firefighter, all assume different roles and react how they feel their character would act. One child might explore the feeling of being brave as a firefighter, while another child playing a parent might explore the feeling of being worried, and another child playing a child in the scenario may explore the feeling of being scared. All are opportunities for the children to use their self-expression to convey emotion. Dynamic play is important because it encourages emotional exploration that can be applied to real life. It also helps to develop social skills, such as empathy and offers children the opportunity to apply their emotional knowledge to different situations.

Challenge Children through Trial and Error

It is tough for any parent to watch their child fail and become frustrated. We naturally want to help them, to make it easier, less frustrating. But, and I say this having made my fair share of parenting mistakes; failure is something we as parents and they as children need to learn to be more comfortable with. Failure is an incredible learning tool and the emotions that come along with failure can be strong. Practice and patience in learning to express disappointment, sadness, and anger are important. Next time your preschooler is learning something new, resist the urge to repeatedly step in or divert attention to a different activity. Allow the failure and subsequent growth to happen. Developing the ability to express disappointment and negative emotions can be especially helpful for children interested in playing competitive sports.

Encouraging the Arts

Art in all of its forms offers the opportunity for self-expression and emotional growth in children. Whether your child is interested in reading, painting, dance, or music, encourage their involvement in the arts as a way to explore and express their emotions. For example, dance offers children a safe way to explore movement and their body as a tool to express emotions. The may lead to greater awareness of one's body.

Promoting Self Expression in Children

Self Expression Through Art

Sesame Street on Self Expression

Preschool-Appropriate Play Equipment

Musical Play for Kids

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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