Parents strive for the perfect gifts for their children, whether it’s for a birthday or holiday, yet, the most meaningful gift a parent can give a child is the gift of play. Forget teaching moments or quizzes about colors and numbers during play. Save counting and color reviews for a long car ride. Take a few minutes to join a child on the floor, observe what he or she is doing and reflect. “The race car is fast!” When a parent enters a child’s play space, he or she is entering a sacred space; the internal world of a child.
Play is a medium through which a child works out his or her inner feelings, worries, and conflicts. Pretend play is often a way a child processes and masters past trauma. When a parent reflects and validates a child’s play, he or she is actually validating a child’s sense of self. This is very different from validating a child’s achievements. Recognizing a child’s performance does not affirm who the child is. When a parent solely validates a child’s achievements, the child often believes he or she is only as good as the next achievement. Many times the result is an anxious child who is a perfectionist.