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Foster Carers Can Use Play To Help Children In Their Care

The word”play” is used to describe activities of children from babyhood until the early teenage years. Play is explicitly recognised in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child article 31 which states”Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts”.

Play is not only fun but is crucial to children’s development and is especially important for supporting children in reaching social, emotional and cognitive milestones. Abused and neglected children in fostercare have many gaps in experience which limit their development. Children in fostercare have often had little or no experience of play and sometimes they do not know how to play. Foster carers can play a crucial role in helping children; teaching them how to play and using play to help in communication and expressing feelings. It does not necessarily require expensive toys or equipment. What is important is that the child is given attention by the foster carer and they are encouraged to learn and develop through play.

Children in fostercare have experienced significant change in their lives and have often survived traumatic events; they need to be helped to manage their feelings and behaviour in a safe environment. Foster carers are in a unique position to build a trusting relationship with children using a range of approaches. Play is a great way for carers and children to connect. Through play a foster carer can learn about the child’s special needs, convey love and support and build a meaningful relationship. Games such as hand holding games, face painting, three legged race, blowing bubbles etc can be used to build trust. Dolls, toys, games and books that promote a positive sense of the child’s ethnic, religious and cultural background can be used to build self esteem and a sense of identity.

Babies need reciprocal activities such as peek-a-boo, singing, rolling a ball and clapping games to help them learn communication, language, co-ordination and self worth. Toddlers are able to use their imagination and will benefit from singing games, reading stories, games with balls or bean bags or using clay or finger paints. Older fostered children will also benefit from play and will learn more readily through play than criticism or lecturing. Play can overcome isolation; fostered children often want to avoid connecting with people and prefer to spend time with computers, television or electronic games.

Children who are allowed to explore their sense of hearing, touch, sight and smell are more securely based in the world and this is a sound building block for later healthy development. Play can help a fostered child make sense of the world around them. In play children can explore their own potential, their skills and limitations, and with support can gain enjoyment in extending themselves. Play can help children to handle fear and worry. Children can re-enact in play particularly worrying and frightening experiences and begin to make sense of what happened to them.

South African born Keith has lived in the south of England for most of his life. After graduating from University with a degree in Business Information Systems Management he decided to start Strawberrysoup a website design company based in West Sussex and Dorset. Keith successfully gained entry into the Southampton University Air Squadron and spent over 12 months training to fly. Since then he has continued to follow his interest in flying and has now began his own training in the form of a Private Pilot\\\’s Licence. Keith also spent 13 months working within the Image and Printing Group at Hewlett Packard in Bracknell. Throughout his time there, he was responsible for many activities including events organisation and website design and maintenance.

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