Firstly, “Happy Father’s Day!” to all our readers who are dads. Here’s a great quote to start your day:
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” ~ Jim Valvano
Now for today’s post:
Further to the research in previous posts that I’ve shared about the importance of baby bonding, creating healthy attachment between parent and child, separation anxiety, and the development of object permanence—these games help build trust and playfulness into your everyday life with young children.
Dr. Lisa’s Parenting Tip:
Play Peek-a-Boo and other Trust-Building Games!
The goal: Reassuring your child that you are reliable, consistent, and that you always come back.
Peek-a-Boo: You can play this game with infants to toddlers, and watch in amazement as their cognitive capacity for object permanence develops. You can start with an object, a teddy, a ball, or something else familiar. At around six months of age, begin to hide your own face, and quickly reappear after asking “Where’s Mommy?/Where’s Daddy?” Then say, “Here’s Mommy./Here’s Daddy!” As your child approaches eight months, start using the moniker “Peek-a-Boo” as you reappear, “I see you!” and/or “I love you!” to reconnect. Separation distress is normal for securely attached infants, your goal is to allow time-limited experience of separation anxiety, followed by the comfort and nervous system soothing provided by the return of a loving primary attachment figure—YOU!
Hide-and-Seek: Once your child is mobile and more confident to be left alone for a moment, introduce “Let’s play Hide and Seek.” Hide yourself in an easily accessible place and call your child to come find you, delight in their ability to find you and the pleasure that comes from being reunited. Then, teach your child to find a safe place to hide nearby and allowing for a few moments of suspense by counting to 10, go find them in their hiding place. Again, celebrating their cleverness to hide, to disappear for a short time, to be found again, and delight in your reunion. We have played a myriad array of hide-and-seek games in our family over the years including flashlights, secret nooks and crannies in the house, hidden-from-view places in tall grasses or high in the trees, favorite books to while away the waiting in secret hiding places for Mommy or Daddy to find them. They loved watching me look for them, bewildered, lost, calling out for hints about whether I was “hot” or “cold”—closer or father—from finding them. They were reassured to see me on a loving quest to reunite myself with them.
The Tickle Game: It’s impossible not to tickle a two year-old. They are so full of wonderful reactions, giggles, and sensory pleasure. As important as loving touch, teaching our children to say “No” or “Stop” and how to establish their own healthy boundaries is vital. I started the tickle game based on the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” song, where the spider eventually lands as a tickly five-finger spider climbing down my child’s arm as the water spout. They also got to be the spider starting on my head, working its way down to my most tickly bits of all, my toes. You can have a great deal of fun playing with the physical sensations of tickling. But, make sure that your child learns to both say and honor the word “No”, “Stop”, or “Enough” when the tickle game is done. Over time, as kids grow up, teaching them that their bodies are their own and that no one is allowed to tickle them without their and/or a parent’s permission is essential for their safety and security. Eventually, our tickle game resulted in years of my super-mobile spidery fingers chasing my kids around the house, them screaming in both delight and fear at being chased, and all of us tumbling into a tickle pile when I managed to catch them. My 10 year-old daughter surprised me during a sleep over with all her pals recently, to do the same with all of them! Once again, as soon as anyone says “Stop”, the game was over, often to start again with kids’ pleas to “Chase us again!”
I’ll Catch You When You Fall: Once the tumbling and living room gymnastics stage starts, variations of this trust game can be lots of fun with the proper pillows in place. Obviously, falling and hoping your child will catch you is not how this game is played. But siblings can join in together, if they are equally matched and capable. Start with your child on his/her knees with a pillow behind. Have your arms cradled under their arm pits and ask them to trust their body in your arms as they lean back to lie on the pillow with your arms as support. Then, as they develop confidence and agility, eventually they can stand “as tall as a tree”, and you can give a gentle chop to their side, ask them to count to three, “1, 2, 3”, and call out “Timber” which is, obviously, your cue to show your amazing lumberjack skills and catch your falling child, a.k.a. “Little Tree”.
See Jennifer’s post about going on trust walks in “Blindfold“.