Learning through Connection and Play (Yes, that’s all you have to do.)

Parents and caregivers across the world are figuring out how to manage their work and family responsibilities for the foreseeable future – with lots of thoughts being thrown at them about what that should look like. Much of this well-intentioned advice creates additional stress during a time when every family is experiencing and managing changes of all kinds. Providing highly structured, well planned out, and social media-worthy activities during this time is not necessary for the continued development of your young child.The truth is that every single family is in a unique position given their family structure, continued job responsibilities or loss of work, changing housing and financial stability, and health status of immediate and extended family members. There is not a one size fits all way to navigate these days (with the exception of adhering to government issued safety recommendations). What is a universal truth, however, is that all families are experiencing days when something unexpected comes up and the daily routine gets out of whack. Parents, please reach out for support if needed (find non-emergency assistance by calling 2-1-1) and be gentle with yourselves by acknowledging that you are doing your best in a less than ideal situation.

Regardless of how the stay at home orders and the spread of COVID-19 have affected your family and work, there are two things all parents and caregivers can be focusing on during this time of uncertainty: connection and play. Weaving these two concepts into the daily routine and priorities that work for your family will help foster a young child’s sense of security and continue to grow their developing brain. This is not to say that the entire day should be spent playing all together! That can quickly lead to frustration, resentment, and burnout. Rather, parents can aim to come up with a daily routine that will meet everyone’s needs (including their own need for self-care and time for work responsibilities, if applicable). Incorporating different types of play into this daily routine can make an otherwise long day at home seem a bit more manageable and give you as the caregiver a much needed break. Simply by spending time together and engaging in different kinds of play, your child will be developing critical skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

The chart below describes three different kinds of play, the valuable skills developed during each, and ideas to start implementing these approaches today. The play summarized here encompasses many of the practices and activities parents are already doing with children at home. Keep up the great work – your kids are already learning through play!

If you are in need of parenting support during this time or would like coaching about incorporating play-based learning into your home routine, please email Meredith Bailey, PTSL’s Family and Community Outreach Specialist, at meredithbailey73@gmail.com.