As parents and caregivers, we all know how fun it is to play with the children we love and care for. Depending on the child, their age and developmental level the way we play will vary. One of my favorite ways to interact, engage and be an active participant when working with children is facilitating Child Direct Play (CDP). CDP can be used with children ages 2-10 years old (will vary with age). Once the grown-up has the basics down you expand on this and use this as a foundation piece when interacting and wanting to play with your kids. This approach truly eliminates power struggles, empowers the child to choose and direct, builds self-esteem and confidence, creates positive time with the caregiver and child, promotes self-regulation, foster independence, & increases creativity.
Here is the Who, What, When, Where, Why & How:
Who: Parents, Caregivers and Teachers- (Grown-ups)
What: Child Directed Play- CDP
When: Anytime that you (Grown-up) can focus your undivided attention on the child/charge/student for a 10-15 minute duration.
Where: Distraction free environment with a variety of safe, age appropriate toys, crafts, instruments etc. Typically done where your children play in your home.
- Build language and fine motor skills
- Practice parenting skills
- Share time and space with your child/charge
- Child gets your undivided attention with positive interaction
- Builds self-esteem and confidence
- Increases self-regulation and social awareness
- Grown-ups- follow the leader- the child is the leader.
- Move closer to them and get curious about what they are doing.
- Acknowledge verbally what they are actually doing. Use as few words as possible, esp. with kids 5 and under.
- Imitate the child’s play. If the child is building Legos, acknowledge and say, “Wow, good idea, I want to build a house too.”
- Expand descriptions for more learning and language building (older kids deeper rapport)
- Notice and praise child’s wanted (good) behavior, “You are so gentle with the baby. What a good mommy you are.” “You are so careful with the paint, good work.” Be specific.
- Allow the child to switch gears if need be. They are the leaders. Clean up can happen later. There is no right or wrong way for a child to play with toys. Support imagination.
For more helpful hints and do’s and don’t, click on this link: https://depts.washington.edu/hcsats/PDF/TF-%20CBT/pages/7%20Positive%20Parenting/Client%20Handouts/Parenting%20Skills/Child-Directed%20Interaction%20Skills.pdf
-Ali Sheppard, MSW, our in house nanny placement coordinator