Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1429, (7 - 13 February 2019)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1429, (7 - 13 February 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Teaching through play

Mai Samih learns how to communicate with children through play

Teaching through play
Teaching through play
Al-Ahram Weekly

Children tend not to complain or speak their minds like adults. Instead, they express themselves through playing. This means that parents can both understand and teach their children through playing with them, but they have first to communicate with the child inside them to be able to do so, according to play psychology expert Esraa Farag in a recent lecture at the Al-Sawy Culture Wheel in Cairo. 

At the beginning of her lecture Farag gave each participant a piece of paper and asked them to make a shape out of it. She then asked them what they felt after doing so. Some people said they felt joy, while others said that they were acting spontaneously.

“According to the Oxford English Dictionary, play is freedom of movement within certain limits. It is an active participation with others. It is entertainment; it is sport; it is relaxation. Another definition for play is that it is an expression of freedom. While playing you feel spontaneity and simplicity, and you feel free from stress. Play has neither limits nor logic,” Farag noted.

As a result, children should be encouraged to play, and parents should not be over-protective towards them, so that they can have the liberty to play and indulge in a state of playfulness. For example, if a child is trying to go up the stairs of a slide, a mother should help him, not prevent him because she thinks it is dangerous. This will have a great effect on his future deeds in terms of going on with future projects. If he is discouraged, he may not have the courage to get on with positive things later in life, Farag said.

Some scientists say that children learn through positive engagement in play, whether individually or collectively. For example, if a child plays with a ball, he will learn how to assess different distances. When a child shares a ball with another, this is an example of positive participation. Others scientists say that play can improve a child’s functioning. The process of discovering a toy, for example, can help him to improvise, Farag said. A child should be allowed to make mistakes while playing, as this can help to teach him. If the mistakes are repeated, a parent should correct him.

A child should also be given the liberty to play in the method he prefers, as this can expose his true feelings. “To be able to deal with a child effectively, I must first know his concept of play. A game for a child is like a journey on which he discovers new things, like for instance a game of blocks,” she said. The way a child sees a game and the method he uses to play with it will depend on his age, she added.

“The first five years are also the most important in a child’s life. This is a vital phase in terms of teaching him new skills. I call it the foundation of a happy childhood when a child learns to practice, to make mistakes, and comprehension,” Farag said. For example, if a parent wants to teach a child the names of different colours, he should first find out the child’s method of learning, since this can differ with each child. Some children learn by memorising, while others use their imagination or learn through active participation.

Parents can also use games to teach children different skills, including by foregrounding learning, finding the best way of communicating between child and parent, identifying a particular aim, communicating with the child inside them, and correcting mistakes.

There are four factors that typically determine a child’s ability to learn: the individual differences between children in terms of ability; the willingness of a child to learn; the degree of his interest in a topic; and the degree of curiosity in the child, Farag commented.  


EFFECTIVE PLAY: To use play effectively, parents must know the state of play in themselves and in their children, particularly the way those children like to play. 

This will result in effective communication with the child, meaning that parents can then be sure that their messages are understood. Play can take the form of doing a lot of activities amid a lot of noise, or doing a few in a quiet or relaxing atmosphere. A parent must not be angry with a child if he finds a messy room while a child is playing, because this will risk a loss of connection. It may also result in negative behaviour from the child, making neither the parent nor the child happy.  

While a mother is playing with her child, she should aim to “live the role of a child”, not the situation, Farag said, as this will lead to greater enjoyment. She should not feel obliged to play just because it is her children’s play time.

Parents must also have a plan of what they want to convey to their children. They must determine the values they want the children to have, for example, and they must know why they want to teach them such values. Parents should also know how to use available resources to teach their children. For example, to teach a child how to concentrate, a parent could show him some coloured cards, give him a minute to look at them, and then hide them and ask the child to tell him the colours he saw from right to left and vice versa. 

This can also measure the pace of a child’s achievement. A parent should also not hesitate to play with a child rather than sending him to a sports club or a child psychologist, she said. 

Parents should also learn to communicate with the child inside themselves to be able to play with their children effectively, Farag said. They should be able to communicate with themselves. This is based on the psychological theory that says that each person has three personalities inside them: the child; the teenager; and the father or the mother. Each person will have some of the characteristics of each inside him. 

The theory aims at helping a person live in a state of psychological harmony from the inside, notably in terms of dealing with others. Each personality will then appear on different occasions, and each has a positive and a negative side. For example, one of the positive characteristics of a child is courage, while one of the negative ones is stubbornness. It is only healthy for a person to possess the three aforementioned personalities, without having one personality taking over. 

“It is wrong to say that your child is stubborn. Instead, you should find a way of dealing with the problem. Ask yourself why he is behaving this way. The child inside you should appear while dealing with your own child so that you can better communicate with him,” Farag said.

A parent should also monitor himself by thinking about his actions so that he can find out when the child inside him comes out and when the adult comes out. The best time for the characteristics of the child inside him to come out is between friends in an informal atmosphere. A person should be very aware of the feelings inside him so that he can control them. The same applies to a child, she said.

Yet, to keep the personality of the child inside you living, you must constantly be aware of what feelings are going on inside you and make sure that you update this information. You should be aware of the situations you go through so that you can control them. If you were angry in a certain situation, you should analyse it so that you do not become angry in a similar one again — this is an example of “updating”, Farag commented.

“A parent should place rules and limits to any game they play with their child, but without telling them that these are the rules. This can function rather like a set of traffic lights. Through the way a child plays, a parent can understand what is bothering him. For example, I could get some toys and start to play with them with my child to see his reactions. I could learn from what he says and teach him at the same time,” Farag added. 

A parent should make sure that his child knows the concepts of losing, winning, reward and punishment, and knows how to react in different cases. A mother should try to fix any problems as far as she can with the resources at hand.

  “If a child fears animals, for example, I could take him to the zoo or even let him play with stuffed animals or watch a cartoon which has animals in it to tell him that they are not so scary. This also helps in developing his personality. If it is the case that a mother can do nothing, she can always go to a child psychologist for help,” Farag concluded.

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