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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Raise Your Play IQ – Big Conversations With Little People

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by Alix Tonsgard

The little guy in my life really loves trucks, rocks, sand, and mucking about. We have been playing a lot with sand. This type of play tends to put him in a deep state of relaxed, focused play, which is amazing when I am trying to work from home, but also gives us insight into one of the reasons why play is so powerful. 

When children are in this state, they feel safe and doors start to open, giving you a glimpse into what they are thinking about and what they may be struggling to make sense of. Right now there are a lot of things going on in the world that your child is trying to understand. They may have caught glimpses of the news and have questions about protests. Maybe they are noticing skin color or issues about race for the first time. I urge you to take some time to slow down, get lost in your child’s play, see where it leads you, and help guide them as they work to negotiate this complicated world. 

Don’t worry about explaining anything just yet. Focus on unpacking and getting a feel for what your child is seeking to understand. With young children, when you have a back-and-forth dialogue that focuses on responding with open-ended questions, the conversations tend to come to a natural stopping point because they need space to process and explore their ideas. 

I know that these conversations are hard and we might not always feel comfortable or prepared to have them, but avoiding or ignoring them sends a powerful, negative message to your child. Our children need to know that we are human and struggle to understand things just as they do. There is nothing wrong with telling your child, “that’s a really good question and it confuses me, too. It’s important that we talk about the things that confuse us or make us sad or angry.”

If your child is older, you can come up with ways to investigate the topic or action steps you can take as a family. The most important thing is to create safe spaces for them to express their feelings, listen to them, keep the conversation going, and never stop learning.

Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.

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DuPage Children's Museum
DuPage Children's Museumhttp://dupagechildrens.org/
The DuPage Children’s Museum’s mission is to stimulate curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem solving in young children through self-directed, open-ended experiences; integration of the arts, science and math; the child-adult learning partnership.

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