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The Power Of Play

A space alien, a princess, a knight, a magician, an astronaut … who doesn’t love a little imaginative play!

As school summer holidays loom, here we go back to basics with a fun activity designed to encourage conversation, imagination, and make-believe. There are many different forms of play – arts and crafts, sand and water, outside play, board games – yet there’s nothing quite like the original game of all games: dress up and imaginative play!

With many foster children perhaps having experienced emotional trauma or having come from an upsetting family environment, play – or specifically play therapy – is believed to help children express their, often suppressed, feelings and emotions. It is often seen as a vehicle to help children with social integration, emotional healing and development, mental growth, trauma resolution, and psychosocial challenges.

Playing dress-up games help children spark curiosity, creativity, imagination and, if they’re playing together in a group, develop social, interpersonal and communication skills. Language and vocabulary skills are developed through storytelling, as children discover, collaborate, discuss ideas, problem solve, and plan together. In addition, children also develop self expression and awareness, and gain confidence and self esteem.

Whether it’s sunny outside or you have a rainy day indoors, let your child be creative and use everyday household items for play. You don’t need to invest in new toys or clothes for imaginative play – that’s what makes it fun! Used kitchen roll holders become telescopes, rulers become swords, boxes become forts, carpet becomes lava, cushions become stepping stones, cubby holes become hideaway places, blankets become superhero capes … the list is endless!

Plato said, “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”, so whether your child wants to be a pirate, a prima ballerina, or a rally car driver, inspire creativity and encourage the development of young imaginations.

What other forms of play do you employ? Has creative play opened up doors of conversation or has it helped in building trust between you and your foster child? Let us know your thoughts and ideas; we’d love to share your suggestions with our community.

Happy World Book Day 2015! Today we’re championing our young readers as we encourage them to become avid little bookworms! If you’re not a natural scholar yourself, it may seem like a chore setting aside time for reading with your foster child, however the future benefits of reading at an early age are well worth you putting in the time and effort.

As we celebrate readers and books, read our top five reasons and tips for raising readers:

1. Speech, reading, and writing skills
Language is a vital communication skill and the advantages it can provide children both socially and academically are invaluable. When reading with foster children, every so often encourage them to read a paragraph, and slowly build their confidence so that they can build up to reading a page on their own. The more a child reads and practises, the more confident he/she will become.

2. Cognition
Following a story from beginning to end can help improve a child’s cognitive functioning. Children follow the character’s journey, the paths taken, trials, triumphs and milestones; all of which help to expand a child’s way of looking at the world. It’s also important to have conversations about the story afterwards to help develop your foster child’s interpretation and analytical skills.

3. Imagination
Not only do children feel the benefits in creative play when introduced to new fantastical worlds, but the creative skill is highly sought after in later life. Originality is praised in schoolwork, and imaginative creativity is highly sought after in future careers. It’s likely that they won’t need much persuasion, but encourage children to write, tell, or act out their own stories.

4. Knowledge
Allowing children to exercise their reading skills not only improves areas related to language and comprehension, but it also gives them a head start in other subjects. History, art, science, the environment, technology and so on, are all important learning aspects that your foster child will gain knowledge about with reading.

5. Practical Application
Having a strong vocabulary and a good understanding of language means that children will be able to read signs, instructions, and warnings. This is important not only in everyday activities, but also for understanding safety warnings such as, “Toxic, do not ingest” or “Beware of the dog”.

At Perpetual Fostering, we are huge advocates of education and learning, believing that every child can fulfil their full potential. Reading together can be a great bonding experience for you and your foster child, so whether it’s Harry Potter, The Gruffalo, or Winnie The Pooh, make a start today and let’s raise healthy, well-read readers!

For more top tips, have a read of our Youth Ambassador’s post on The Importance of Reading.