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Play Activities to Enhance Emotional Skills

This post is brought to you in partnership with Genius of Play.  All thoughts and opinions shared are my own.

Have you watched the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out?  It’s adorable and creative and as a parent, it really made me think.  My family had the privilege of seeing an early screening when we attended the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in 2015 and purchased it as soon as it was released.

The movie follows the emotions of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear inside a young girl named Riley.  It shows how each decision she faces, each time she has an experience, each time she plays, each of these have a great impact on her emotions and memories in some way.  While the movie is far from reality, the characters of her emotions take you on a fun ride and caused me to think how many of the things our children do that we may not give much thought to, do indeed impact them greatly.

Through play, children are given any world they can possibly imagine, they truly are only limited by their own imaginations.  Play time is vital for children to develop emotionally.  It’s children’s way of creating imaginary worlds, characters and plots that match their emotional state, helping them learn to express and regulate their feelings.

The character of Fear from the movie was comical and yet very impactful.  All children have fears, some of the dark, others of monsters, some of getting hurt and the list goes on and on.  Through play children are given the power to eliminate or take control of their fears in a pretend scenario.  They can be super heroes that capture all the monsters and turn them into cute puppies, they can have the ability to live in a world where there is no pain or suffering or perhaps a world that is equipped with a sun that always shine.  The options are truly endless with their imaginations.

As they act out their emotions in play, they learn to cope with frustration, anger and fear in a situation that they have the control over.  As they play with others, it gives them the opportunity to practice their empathy and understanding of others emotions as well.  In a household with four children, I will tell you it isn’t always easy, but they learn to be more aware and sensitive to how their own actions affect others as they play.

My children love to play at the park, they turn the playground into a sailing ship and work together to guide the ship through rough waves, past a vessel of pirates, steering around islands and safely coming ashore.  I know that they will likely never face any of these scenarios but it builds confidence and team work as they work together to overcome their obstacles.   They are left with a true sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after they have succeeded in their imaginary roles.

Structured and unstructured play time is a necessity for children in so many ways for their development.  It acts as an emotional outlet to express their feelings.

The folks at Genius of Play encourage parents to get involved and share so many great play ideas.  They have ideas filtered by age and benefit type.  You can see all the great ideas to encourage emotional skills through play here.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Crafty Cards – My children love to get crafty and make things for people.  Making homemade cards that they design and create with whatever you have on hand is a great activity!

Mood Meter – This is such a great idea because it allows the children to express how they are feeling in a fun way.  We hope most days you land in the green zone 🙂

Charades – This game is always a favorite and is sure to bring lots and lots of laughs.  Acting out people, objects, places and emotions without talking can prove to be a fun-filled afternoon.

Color Me Strong – This game involves a beach ball and sharing your emotions from past experiences.  It lots of fun indoors or out!

Red Rover – This is a game I played as a child and teaches team work, how to handle disappointment and acceptance.

But there are so many ideas to get your children going, be active, creative and build lifelong skills for their life ahead.  I would encourage you to check out the Genius of Play website to be inspired with lots of creative play ideas.