If we give children the time and space to play freely, they will find ways to process and accept the current situation. Younger children may put masks on their legos and play out a trip to the doctor or play “virus”. Older children may want to draw something goofy on a mask and walk around the house making jokes. Whatever their play is, it is helping them to make sense, to accept and to take steps forward.
Of course, there are times when limits need to be set during free play, especially around safety. The key to limit setting while allowing the child to express themselves freely during free play is to set limits only when they are needed. For example, a child may need to confine the imaginary character to the corner for two months (to process and make sense of how the child has been stuck at home for two months). If the imaginary character is their little sister, you may need to say, “I know you want her to be stuck there for two months. Little Sister is not for locking up. You may lock up this doll or this lego character instead”. Acknowledge the child’s needs in play, set the limit, and provide an alternative.
One of the best things parents can do is to follow the child’s lead in play. If the child wants to play “COVID Tag”, let them. You can be there to guide them if invited and answer their questions, but do not stop their process of figuring things out through play. And the best of the best things parents can do, is join in and enter the child’s world! There is no place more beautiful than inside the mind of a child.
If you have concerns about your child’s play, reach out to a mental health professional. Tara Motzenbecker, Licensed School Psychologist, is providing telehealth services for the state of Florida and is available for consultations and therapeutic services. (941) 357-4090 www.ChildTherapySRQ.com