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Playing our way to felt safety

Play is a child's classroom, it's a time and space for them to explore and make sense of the world. It's not a break or down time for the brain, it is an essential time to integrate and experiment with their learnings.

"Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapsis in the brain - unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10-20 repetitions." - Dr Karyn Purvis

Many of the games children already play are helping them refine specific skill sets and executive functioning skills, but we can intentionally play with our kids to help them develop the skills they may currently be struggling with. Check out this handy list of common games and the skills they help refine.

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.

Let me know below what your favourite games to play with your kids are and if there's anything we need to add to this list?

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