Let’s play!

KINETA BOOKER shares how her relationship with her child has changed through one-on-one play.

We all know the importance of just letting our children play. It’s great for their imaginations, it’s amazing for their development, and great for their brains. But, really, how often do we really play with our children?

I thought I was doing a great job: setting up an activity for my son to do on the kitchen bench, while I peeled and prepped veges for dinner on the other side; ensuring he had all the craft supplies he needed to do some creating while I wrote letters to people beside him; reading him awesome stories with silly voices; or I lay out on the swing seat and chatted to him about his day while he bounced on the trampoline beside me.

I was doing a great job! Right?

Of course I was.

But what about the times when his behaviour was a little challenging? When he wanted to chat with me when I was on another task? When he needed my attention, but I was a bit too distracted with mundane things like vacuuming or organising the container cupboard?

I knew there were areas I could improve upon, and I felt I needed more skills.

Then, I saw a thread on a local Facebook group about The Incredible Years course, run through Family Works. Feedback from other parents was overwhelmingly positive, saying how much they learnt from the group. So I did a quick google and emailed them within minutes. 

Having to commit to the once-a-week, 14-week course, initially seemed quite overwhelming, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made as a parent.

The facilitators have given me skills to parent with more confidence, and so much of it is about the incredibly important 10–15 minutes each day of one-on-one, child-led play. By letting him decide what we do, giving him my full attention, listening to his ideas, praising him, and not taking over with a stream of questioning, like I often do.

The first time I lay down on the carpet to colour in with him, he looked at me with a massive smile on his face: “Mum! Are you going to play with me?”

Yes, it broke my heart. What have I been doing these past five years? 

The skills I’ve now learnt have certainly helped build a stronger bond between my son and me, a bond I thought we already had. Sure, we spent hours together each day, doing fun things and going on awesome adventures, but he now knows that for at least 10–15 minutes every single day, he gets to lead the fun, rather than me instigating what we do. 

Happy son? Happy mum!

Parent with more confidence

The Incredible Years programme will help you nurture your child’s social, emotional and academic wellbeing. In a group setting, you’ll learn how to identify and manage potentially problematic behaviours more confidently.

Incredible Years is supported by over 30 years’ of research and is used worldwide in schools and mental health centres.

Who is it for?
The primary Incredible Years programme is designed for parents of children aged 3–5. They also offer Incredible Years school age programmes for children aged 6–8 and 9–12. These latter programmes will help you to encourage your child’s sense of responsibility and support their school learning.

How we help:
The Incredible Years programme is designed for parents with children aged 3–8. You’ll learn how to:

  • Better understand how your child is developing
  • Build a healthy relationship with your child
  • Encourage positive behaviour
  • Address challenging behaviour

Incredible Years is available through Family Works, a Presbyterian Support service. Call 0800 477 874 or visit familyworksuppersouth.org.nz/incredibleyears