Play affection games to watch your little one laugh away
By Team iDiva
After a long hectic day, ain’t you glad to see your children come home after school? But your efforts to connect can fall flat. And when that happens, it’s hard to know what to do.
There’s a lot to be said for letting our children enjoy some time to simply decompress after school. Our habitual inquiry, “Tell me about your day,” falls flat because our children are tired of communicating on demand. They’ve had grownups directing their attention and asking for answers from them all day long. And it can take time to absorb the warmth of home after buttoning down when their day was spent in the all-too-structured environment at school.
‘Special Time’ can help with after-school or early-evening connection — it allows a child to direct a grownup, for a change, and to decide, fully and entirely, what to do with a chunk of time we offer. It can start out tamely — with a request for a back massage, or a very clever request that you organise that messy clothes drawer and fold everything nicely, while your child tells you what goes where. As you good-naturedly take direction, the safety builds, and often, some kind of impish initiative gets the laughter started. Maybe the massage turns into a startling display of farting or burping prowess. Maybe the clothes-folding request is followed by an order meant to really test your Special Time intentions—your child now wants you to throw all the folded clothes around the room! And as you beg and plead not to “have” to do that, she laughs—she “got” you!
Laughter is a great connector
It’s the sign that the path to your child’s heart is now cleared, and your love is getting through. It creates warmth in your child’s spirit, and of yours, as well. It’s a healing force, melting the day’s separations and releasing the tension that has built because of the distance and non-communication we take for granted in our lives. Laughter can’t be forced, but special time is a powerful incubator.
Benefits of affection games
And once the warmth is flowing again, affection games can help you remind your child that you’re still thrilled to be with him or her. They let your child stay in charge—you hardly ever get to plant your kisses. You hardly ever catch them to give that giant hug you offer. But the chase is the thing. Your loss sparks their laughter. And avoiding your affection lets them receive it, without compromising their independence or shutting down to do a ritual they don’t feel up for at the moment.
How to play
Affection games can start with, “Oh, I’m all full of kisses! I can’t stand it any longer! I have to give them away…” or with a robot voice saying, “Hug. Hug machine. Hug machine coming to hug somebody. Somebody needed for hug machine right now.” Or, “Hey, guess what we forgot! Hug and kiss! You came home, and we missed them. Come here, you!” with a big grin and arms held wide. You don’t force anything. But you do keep trying. You look for the laughter, and then create more play at exactly that distance, or with that kind of near-miss attempt, or with that goofy voice.
More than one child can be involved—three children might all team up to make sure that you don’t manage to hug any one of them. They pull you off the object of your affection, who makes an escape, and when you turn to try to give a big hug to the defender, they swarm in to free her, too. We call this Playlistening—you take the less powerful role in play, and do what you can to promote laughter, without tickling.
“100 hugs,” “I want you,” “I just want to kiss one little finger, pleeease,” and “How have I lived without you all day?” are great lead-ins to a good chase, laughter and connection. Be inventive.
This kind of play is really good for us parents, too. The light in our children’s eyes nourishes us in deep ways, and the challenge to be creative moment by moment is a healthy one. Their laughter becomes ours too as they invent their escape strategies. And bringing them our affection is exactly what we hoped to do as parents all along — to show our love, and to make every effort to see that they receive it. In affection play, we can go all out. We can run hard, we get to try and try again. In all, a great antidote to a day at school or at work!
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