4 TIPS TO IMPROVE CHILDREN'S WELLBEING
January comes after a very busy season of mixed emotions, family time and lots of play, but it can be quite overwhelming too. It is very important that we look after our wellbeing more than ever. What is a positive wellbeing? It is a quality that you have when you feel good with yourself and with your environment. We learn to express and control our own feelings and emotions as we grow older thanks to our every-day experiences, but we can only manage this if we start being aware of it as a child. How can we help our children to do so?
Prepare them for what’s coming, talk about expectations.
If they are going back to school soon, use role play and books to anticipate this experience so they can feel confident.
- Role play: Use small figures or their favourite toys to represent the classroom, the parents saying goodbye, themselves and their friends and teacher. Let them lead the activity and conversations and just narrate what you see. Suggest ideas or ask questions to help them understand what will happen. Let them know that they might be sitting at a different table with different friends, etc. and don’t forget to remind them of all the fun things they will be doing. You can use this type of activity for any other life situations that are new or not easy to deal with (doctor appointments, new sibling, etc).
On the following image you can see how we used our rainbow squares to represent the tables in the classroom and we used the large animals as parents and the baby animals as the kids. Play can turn a scary experience into a fun adventure!
- Draw a picture together for your child to bring to the teacher or friends so they have a good reason to walk into the classroom and stay focused on this purpose.
- Use books about school to start conversations and discover your child’s worries, thoughts and interests. Picture books are great so the child can lead the conversation.
Provide play opportunities.
Free play, quiet play and movement are all necessary to express their own ideas and to get to know themselves and to feel good about their life.
- Finding a few minutes to play outside, to walk, to move or to dance is a great way for your child to connect with himself and to help them stay focused in the classroom or during quiet play. Movement is essential for a positive development every single day. Games like an indoor obstacle course, basketball throwing a teddy into the laundry basket or shaking a blanket up and down (one person holding each side) with a teddy on top are perfect if you can’t get outside that day.
- Free play is the time where the child decides what he/she wants to do. Children can follow their interests and needs and do what makes them happy, express themselves and get creative only if they have the time and space provided. Being bored is the perfect excuse to get creative, think and find something to do.
Establish a clear but flexible routine that works for all of you.
Having a clear routine can help your child understand what to expect during the day and be more patient and understanding. Time is a very abstract concept and children can get very overwhelmed and worried about not knowing when things will end, when mammy will be back, when they are going to do something they really want (or if they will at all), etc. Having a visual daily schedule works really well to help them understand the sequence of activities throughout the day and to be prepared for the end of the current activity and the beginning of the next one. Here is an example:
Use play as a way to communicate emotions.
Use books and toys that connect emotions with experiences, colours, shapes and characters so children can use concrete items to describe their abstract feelings.
Discovery Playtime toys that help children understand and express emotions:
The Colour Monster: Figures that connect big feelings with colours, face expressions and body gesture. Kids can hold those emotions and play with them. Great to use along with the book.
Mindful Maze: the perfect tool to help your child self-regulate and control their breathing. After some practice together you will see how your child is more familiar with his breathing and can use it even when the maze isn’t available.
Yellow Door Emotion stones: the face expressions are engraved on the stone so the child can see them but also feel them through touch. They can be printed on playdough, or kids can copy them and try to guess the name of that emotion. If they feel very angry or sad for example they can hold the stone that relates to their emotion so they don’t have to use their words to communicate.
Learn about feelings activity set: a fantastic activity set with a very extensive guidance for you to help your child name emotions, understand others and discover they feel at different specific situations. This activity set makes it so easy to start conversations about life and to discover more about each other through play.
Express your feelings pocket chart (for classrooms): allow your students to express their feelings and open a space for communication, self-expression and understanding.
Yellow Door self-regulation stones: These self-regulation stones are an open-ended, flexible resource designed to help children express their emotions when they cannot find the words to do so. Choosing an image that represents their emotion will enable them to explore how they are feeling, what triggered this feeling and how it can be managed constructively or celebrated.
Big Feelings Pineapple: a fun resource for preschool children where they can build face expressions using the 26 different face features provided.
All about me Neighbourhood set: children can reconstruct their own life with this set and use the different items to represent themselves, their family, friends and environment. They can use language to create scenes where they express how they feel, what they do, what they would like to do… We can learn so much from them listening to the stories they create.