As I sit down to write this blog, my week is coming to a close. It’s Friday. I’ve spent my workdays in a virtual conference learning, meeting people from different communities, and listening to motivating speakers. Like so many large gatherings today, this conference was provided virtually. Via my computer screen, I was able to see lots of home visitors share their stories about their virtual home visiting experiences. As I listened, I began to think back to my home visiting days, which don’t seem that long ago but were still some years before the COVID pandemic rattled this globe.
Beautiful moments filled each home that I visited. As I put myself in my imaginary time machine, I can visualize the baby learning to make sounds as they say, “Mama” for the very first time. I can see the toddler popping bubbles as they squeal with excitement. These are only a couple of the MANY wonderful moments that sparked from parent-child activities.
I can only imagine that doing activities in a virtual setting is challenging. Technology malfunctions, internet connections can be unstable, and it’s hard to ensure parents have supplies for activities. We’re in uncharted waters. However, I believe you’re shining a light, and with this glow, you can facilitate joy through each FaceTime, Zoom call, or telephone conversation.
With your light shining, I invite you to embrace parent-child activities and go with the flow. View activities as a starting point for lots of fun. Develop ideas from the supply lists instead of viewing them as necessary. If an activity says you need materials like paper plates and duct tape to make patterns for babies, embrace the moment. A family might not have these items available. However, they can gather socks, dish towels, or even shirts with different patterns. If an activity says to use cardstock, but a family doesn’t have this on hand, embrace the moment. Encourage them to use scrap paper instead. As long as supplies are safe, there is still fun to be had. There are also lots of activities that don’t require supplies and can be facilitated virtually.
Child development specialists remind us that children don’t need expensive toys. They say safe household items can do the trick when it comes to creating fun play.1,2 They also share that a child enjoys playing WITH their parent the most.2 This is why these experts reiterate the importance of parents joining their children for joyful interactions. Playful moments support children’s development, lessen parents’ stress, and help kids learn how to build healthy relationships with others.2,3 When parents play with their children, they do so much more than have fun. They model joyful and loving connections, which teaches children how to develop these connections as they grow older.3 A bonus is all the wonderful memories created for families.2
I know I’ll forever cherish Saturday nights around my grandmother’s kitchen table as she indulged my brother and me in countless games of Uno or her joining me on all my bike rides as she walked right along beside me. I don’t remember what that bike even looked like or the details of those cards. However, I sure do remember my grandma’s smiles, laughs, and the love she poured out for me as we played together. All those joyful interactions that grew from play, I’ll hold dear forever.
1. Canadian Pediatric Society. (2017, May). Your busy toddler: Games, toys, and play in the second year of life. Caring for kids. https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/behavior-and development/your_busy_toddler
2. Lerner, C., & Greenip, S. (2004). The power of play: Learning through play from birth to three. Zero To Three. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/311-the-power-of-play
3. Siegel, D. J. (2011). The whole-brain child: 12 Revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. Bantam Books.