The Genius of Play shares some of their favorite family play ideas

We all worry about our kids learning to control their emotions. After all, it’s emotions that so often get us off track and into trouble! The Genius of Play, is a national movement with a mission to give families the information and inspiration needed to make play an important part of every child’s life. Fortunately, play can serve as a key tool in helping your child manage their emotions. Play provides children with an opportunity to not only learn how to express themselves, but how to explore and understand their wide range of feelings.

Through play, children learn to cope with emotions as they act out feelings such as anger, sadness or fear, in a situation they control. Imaginative play allows them to think out loud about experiences charged with both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, creating a safe outlet for self expression and self exploration. Plus, by giving children a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, play can help build their confidence and self-esteem.

Erik A. Fisher, Ph.D, aka Dr. E…TM, Emotional Dynamics Expert at Genius of Play, has been changing the lives of children, teens and adults for two decades by encouraging self-empowerment through play.

He opens our discussion by stating that ” often children take their lead on how they learn about their emotions from the adults that guide them. Many of us received very little education on how to manage emotions or the purpose of emotions when we were children, so knowing what to do with your own kids when it comes to emotion can be challenging. I believe that emotions are all there to tell us and teach us about life. For example, the purpose of Anger is to protect. The purpose of Failure is that it tells us when it is time to learn, the purpose of Guilt is that it lets us know when we have done something to others that we need to fix.”

“Too often, we are taught to ignore what our emotions may be trying to tell us, and all too often, many adults don’t know what to do with the emotions that they are feeling. Unfortunately, when adults do not understand, it is difficult for them to properly educate their children.”

“It is for that reason that I often recommend that parents learn right along with their kids and even let their kids be teachers to them. The Genius of Play is a great way for parents to learn about the value of play in various domains, including emotional realms, and I always encourage parents to take a look. I also recommend my parenting book, The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With that discusses power, emotion, and how we can learn to manage these challenging aspects of life.”

The Genius of Play, is excited to share some of their favorite play ideas that focus on emotional development and teach children how to express and regulate their emotions.

Kindergarten

· This is a great time to use role playing and engage imagination to work through emotions. Kids at this age are often playing with dolls, puppets and may be starting to play with action figures. Watch the themes of how they play with these toys and the emotions that they may demonstrate through their play. As they may be playing, be willing to get on the floor with them, play and talk about what is going on with their characters and what they may be feeling. You can also play out some of the challenges that they may be having with others through the dolls and show how they can work out their difficulties by you taking on their role. Ask them what the other characters may be feeling when they may play these roles.

· Many children may be exposed to many of the cards, blocks, images, and emoji that denote various emotions. These images that help children identify emotions can be helpful for kids to visually identify what they are feeling so that an adult can help connect the words with the emotions. As these emotions are discussed, let your kids know that these emotions aren’t bad or wrong. They are trying to tell us something. It is the choices that we make when we feel these emotions that we want to be aware of to change. Understanding protective emotions like Anger, Rage, Hatred, Defiance, Sarcasm, Flippancy and Arrogance are trying to help us look strong when we feel weakness inside.

3rd Grade

· Kids have been in school for a few years. They are learning to grasp emotions and experiencing better emotional regulation as their brains also develop. However, the patterns of emotional expression that they learn now can be harder and harder to reverse if they are reinforced and/or if new patterns aren’t learned. While it is always a good time to work on discussing emotions and what they are teaching us, helping to find healthy ways to express them is also important. Charades can be a great game for kids to act out emotions. Making your own game of emotional charades can be a good way to see how your kids view emotions and even to discuss them after a round.

· There are also many board games and books that help kids become aware of various emotions. Exposing them to the uniqueness of each emotion through play and helping them to understand them will be adding to their skill set in real life situations.

5th Grade

· This is a year that kids are still kids, and some are getting closer to adolescence. For some, they are still interested in children’s games, and the same games, cards and emoji can still be helpful to discuss emotions, while for some who want to associate with “older age” activities, they may show no interest in the games of “children”. The issue is that even though kids at this age want to be older, their brains are not developed and they are often playing the emotional games and “writing the emotional checks that they can’t cash”. Making sure that they are processing and understanding emotions is so important at this time of life. Playing games that involve perspective taking, communication, listening closely to how they see the world can help this. Don’t just listen to them when they are aware that you are around, listen when they don’t realize that you are listening. There are many role-playing games that give opportunities to share emotions and see inside of them, as well.

Most importantly, at any age your kids are, Eric suggests that you play with them, and no matter what you are playing talk with them, ask them about how they see life, how they feel about themselves and others, how they feel about you as a parent

It is often when distracted by a game that kids will share more. Listen without judgment, and ask more questions than telling them what to do.

Please click on The Genius of Play for more information.

Best HOPE campaign: Hope’s Front Door

Contributed by Janell Robinson, Executive Director of Hope’s Front Door

On her second birthday, Jill made her first visit to Hope’s Front Door. You see her mother, Teia, lost her job two months ago but has a lead on a new one through an area employment agency.  Jill and her brother, Jon, were as patient as they could be while their mom learned about Hope’s Front Door’s weekly job list and job coaches.

Jill and Jon received new donated Beanie Babies to play with as their mother explained that she was really hopeful the new job would lead to an improved life for her and her children. “Things have started to get tight and this new job could mean stability and better things for the kids; receiving the gas vouchers to go to the interview means a lot to me and my family.” Teia explained.

While the family is hopeful about the future job opportunity, they are still concerned about how to meet financial challenges occurring right now. Jon said he would be in 1st grade this fall and was excited.  Part of helping Jon maintain that enthusiasm for a new school year is making sure he has the tools needed to succeed. But with limited resources, purchasing school supplies can seem daunting. The family will be attending the READY. SET. LEARN! back to school supply giveaway at Hope’s Front Door to make sure the school year starts off on the right foot.

Life was a blur and out of focus for Kayla when she was 16 years old. But with the help from Hope’s Front Door, life became much clearer.

“I have had glasses since the fifth grade. Last year, I outgrew the prescription and they broke. My eye sight was getting blurry when I looked at things. I can see close up, but far away is a problem when looking at chalkboards or whiteboards in the front of the class,” Kayla said.

Kayla’s mom was newly separated and unemployed. So, Kayla tried to make due while her mom looked for a job that would provide insurance. They also waited for their application for Illinois’ All Kids insurance program to be approved, which could take up to 45 to 90 days. She did not want to bother her mom when she knew that money was tight in their household.

“I used to really stress about it myself. It was hard knowing my mom was worried about money and providing for us and looking for work. She’s my mom. I tried to put some of the burden on my own shoulders, so she wouldn’t have to worry. I tried wearing a pair of my mom’s old glasses and that was okay for a while. Then they broke and that was no longer an option,” she explained.

Kim, Kayla’s Mom, came into Hope’s Front Door seeking assistance in search of vouchers for her job search transportation and food for her and Kayla. Not only was she able to receive those items, but an eye exam and glasses for Kayla were provided as well!

During HFD’s Back to School Project, which runs through August, Kayla was also thrilled to have been able to receive school supplies.

“I got pens, pencils and a book bag. I used all of the paper. I at least had something to start out with for the new school year. It’s important to have folders and paper for US History and workshops. It would have been bad to start the first day having to ask another student for

So many of the children who have participated in HFD’s Back to School Project echo Kayla’s comments.

“Thanks to Hope’s Front Doors generosity Kayla, now 17 years old, can see just fine and had the necessary supplies to help her succeed in school. Last year, their investment helped over 1100 area children, kids like Kayla” said Kim.

Hope’s Front Door often acts as a “first responder” to neighbors who are facing financial and/or medical crises. They play an integral role in ensuring the well-being of individuals, families and the overall communities they support. When clients walk through the doors, they determine their immediate needs. They help them with either food, medical, dental and/or transportation vouchers, plus a clear pathway into the network of social agencies that can assist them with the long-term restructuring of their lives, by helping move them out of living a “crisis to crisis existence”.

They serve the homeless, as well as those seeking assistance in six local communities. Childhood hunger is not just something that happens in other cities or counties. One in six children living in DuPage County experiences food insecurity. Everyday Hope’s Front Door provides food vouchers to help area families have access to fresh food.  Over 72,000 live in poverty in DuPage County, once known as a fairly stable employment community, with over 27,000 living in extreme conditions.  Currently,Hope’s Front Door is seeing an 18% increase in the number of children assisted compared to last year.

As a community, we can help children like Jill, Jon and Kayla as their families experience a financial rough patch. By donating to the READY. SET. LEARN! school supply drive you can help Jon and other kids have the things needed to learn on day one.

By giving to the Best HOPE Campaign you can ensure that kids like Jill have access to basic necessities like food, transportation, medication, oral healthcare and eye exams/eye glasses. Please join us at Shanahan’s Food & Spirits (1999 75th St, Woodridge, IL 60517) to support both projects! On August 2nd we will be accepting school supplies…and 20% of the sales from your dining bill, with event flyer, will to help children through the Best HOPE Campaign!

Please join the Best HOPE Campaign to benefit area children. Now until September 30, Hope’s Front Door would like to raise $20,000 to help more than 250 children with food and school supplies as well as access to medication, dental and vision healthcare . . . even financial literacy.

Your donations will make a huge difference in the lives of our neighborhood children! 

For more information on the READY. SET. LEARN! project and Best HOPE Campaign, please visit www.hopesfrontdoor.org.