Any game that people enjoy playing together can bring them close, but some games are actually about connection—like Peek-a-Boo, Hide and Seek, and Tag—while other games help inspire communication. Here are a few suggestions:
• Play rough-and-tumble games. Roughhousing brings closeness, confidence and healing from emotional hurts. Basic rules: no tickling and, usually, let your child win. Encourage your child to try to get past you. Or, both of you get on your knees and try to push the other down. Take cuddle breaks.
• Play catch. Tossing a ball promotes your child’s developing hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. The rhythm of the ball is like a bridge, re-establishing a deep connection between you. Comments such as “good try” and “nice catch” build confidence and trust.
• Make up stories as a family. One parent starts and children chime in with ideas, names and decisions. Storytelling can also be an effective tool in dealing with a child’s personal issues.
• Choose toys wisely. Although toys aren’t necessary for all play, they can help stimulate imagination and communication. Look for open-ended toys that tap into universal themes like music or storytelling. Blocks of all kinds, stuffed animals, dolls, a playhouse, small cars, old Halloween costumes, clay, puppets and play theaters are all great choices.
• Make time for floor time. Keep in mind that floor time can take place anywhere, anytime, but plan to spend 20 to 30 minutes each time you play. Your child is the boss and gets to choose the activity. If you choose the game, let your child take the lead.
• Focus on what your child sees or does. A dark closet becomes a cave, a tower of blocks a castle or a fort.
• Become an extension of your child’s toys. When you pick up a stuffed frog, speak in a croak.
• Loosen up and get silly. It lightens the mood with both children and teens. Be amenable to your child’s ideas.