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Playing Our Way to Felt Safety

Did you know there are huge benefits hidden within games that parents and children have played for centuries in supporting development and wellbeing? We love it when the evidence shows us that what we inherently gravitate to has been serving these fantastic purposes all along.

Did you know that from her research Dr. Karyn Purvis reports that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain, unless it is done in play, in which case it only takes 10 to 20 repetitions.

So when you feel like you have repeated yourself hundreds of times you likely have, but have you stopped to play? In this post learn some of our favourite games and activities that you can utilise day to day to support the development of specific social and emotional skills.

What’s the time Mr Wolfe, Peak-a-boo, Hide and Seek and Duck Duck Goose

These games and those similar beautifully allow our children to practice feeling small amounts of anxiety and returning to felt safety within their relations with safe adults or peers.

You me and a treasure hunt.

The adult makes a treasure map using landmarks within your own space, together we walk with children along this journey. This is an opportunity to practice using focus and joint attention while telling stories of perseverance and the reward that comes at the end.


When we sing together we are engaging in controlled breathing (even without knowing it) and we get to share in a pleasant moment of connection.


From a sensory perspective clay provides a close experience to skin to skin contact. As we work to protect children from harm to ways in which they can seek physical co-regulation can be limited. Clay can assist in meeting this need.


Giving children the opportunity to drum or dance along to a range of music with a rate of 80 beats per minute mimics the human heart rate and can provide an opportunity to relax a child to a resting heart rate.


Swinging on a swing, in a hammock or on a rocking chair mimics for the brain the sensation of being rocked. For those who may not have had the early experience opportunities to meet this need in the present is a great resource.

Feelings Bingo/Emotions Memory

Any number of games can be developed focused on developing the skill of emotional literacy and theory of mind. Through this children can more accurately identify feelings in themselves and others supporting future efforts towards self-regulation.


Whether it is with small sensory items or out doing an obstacle course children need opportunities to meet their sensory needs and engage their proprioceptive systems. For this reason regular removal of physical movement (eg detention at lunch time) as a consequence is not recommended for regulation.

Reflective statements and validation

Simply spotting opportunities to name the emotion you see a child displaying can increase their sense of being seen and understood. You don’t need to fix the feeling, in fact by not rushing to distract or fix we can communicate to children that they are safe to share their feelings with us.

This is just a taster, want more activities or ideas or have your own favourites to share with others please let us know! And don't forget you are never to old to play :)

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