Following on from my post about Theraplay, this post looks in more detail at one of the four different dimensions of Theraplay – Nurture.
The purpose of the nurture activities are to reinforce the message that the child is worthy of care, and will receive care without having to ask. So it’s very much about building self-esteem, as well as your attachment relationship, and helping to make your child feel safe and loved. If you feel your child’s self esteem needs a boost (and they can never get too much in my opinion), that they seem particularly needy, or you just feel you need to reconnect in a loving and caring way, these types of activities could be helpful. If your child is rejecting your attentions and care, these activities can help re-establish your role as caregiver if you take small steps at a time. Remember, also, that connection is the key to eliminating challenging behaviour.
There are many nurture activities. For some of them you’ll want to set aside some uninterrupted time, but others are so simple that it’s more a case of making them a natural part of your daily interactions with your child.
The activities below are just a small selection of some of my favourites.
Wash your child’s hands or feet in a basin of warm soapy water. Gently dry them and massage them with lotion, then paint their nails. You can keep it simple, or do lots of different colours – your child can choose them. My son is very pleased with his multi-coloured toe nails. He also enjoyed choosing the colours at the market stall where we bought the nail polish.
This activity required him to sit still for some time, which brings in an element of challenge for some children. Keep talking to your child as you paint, and finish off by reading books together while the nails dry.
Caring for hurts
Check your child’s hands, arms, legs etc for scratches or bruises. Give them magic kisses. Rub magic cream, lotion or powder on or around hurts. If your child won’t let you, try just gently touching hurts with a cotton ball, or blowing or giving elephant kisses. (kiss your fist, make an elephant trunk shaped gesture, then plant the fist on your child). You can follow up by checking for healing next time.
Paint flowers and hearts on cheeks or make the child up like a princess. Moustaches and beards are fun for boys. If you’re short of time or just can’t face the mess today, use a small paint brush, wet or dry, or your finger, to pretend, describing their wonderful cheeks, lovely eyebrows and so on. Make your child feel special!
Adapt the words of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to be about your child. “…what a special boy you are. Dark brown hair and soft, soft cheeks, big blue eyes from which you peek…” Try to make eye contact, or cradle in your arms like a baby. If there are two adults present you can spread a blanket on the floor, lie your child down on it, then lift up the corners and swing them in it like a hammock. If you really think your child needs, and will accept, some ‘babying’, you can finish by swaddling them in the blanket and giving them a drink from a bottle or lidded cup.
For children who, for a number of possible reasons, may have had a difficult time during infancy, these activities are intended to help fill the gaps and provide the experiences they may have missed out on when they were younger. But for all children, self-esteem and a strong connection with their parents is of such importance that I really don’t think you can over-do it! So give your child some extra nurturing today!