Excerpt from Me, Myself and I
The best way to know what your child thinks about his world before he can tell you directly in words is through playing with him. It is right there, in their play sequences and manipulations that we see and hear what they understand and think about the world we share.
Remember, however, that this is his play, not yours. You are a partner and a facilitator, occasionally a “go-fer,” but you are not playwright, producer or director.
- When you play make-believe with your child using simple dress-up (hats alone are great), narrate her play: “And now you get on your hat.” Describe what you think she is feeling: “Don’t you feel fancy (snazzy, cool…)?” And listen for when you are not quite on track: “So, then what?” Children often love to have you with them in these imaginary explorations of role and role-play and usually will do their best to keep you from getting lost along the way.
- Use reflecting surfaces (mirrors, windows) as you play peek-a-boo with your child’s image and then yours, or add a little face paint or make-up as he explores what happens to his face as he, or you, add a dot here or a line there. It helps him define who he is by enjoying the reflection of his face and feelings back and forth between you. Doing this together just feels different and better and usually more important.
- Sit together in the dark with a flashlight and give your child a sense that he has some control over what appears, reappears, and disappears into the darkness. Narrate the experience with him, and match his level of emotional interest, as you share the job of turning the flashlight on and off together. Sara, at 22 months, loved this game and called it the “good-bye light game.” She seemed to be sorting out the comings and goings of important things and people as the lights went off and on.
There are countless other ideas available from books and magazines. Borrow, invent, and reinvent games just for the two of you.