”The truly great advances of this generation will be made by those who can make outrageous connections, and only a mind which knows how to play can do that.” ~ Nagle
One of the biggest aspects of our job at the after-school kids program for children at risk is helping kids play.
Most of the children enter the property so disregulated inside they have chaotic, disorganized behavior. They lack focus to complete a picture or game. They’re constantly on guard against perceived threats, ready to fight at any moment. Being so distrustful makes it hard to have friends. Instead they prey on the weak – bullying others to make themselves feel stronger and more powerful. And if they’re not the bully they are the victim. Often a child’s anti-social behavior causes him to be victimized.
As staff our motto for behavior management is prevention. We understand this behavior and we know it is unhealthy for children. They are acting out of the pain and hurt they feel inside. All this behavior does is become a road block to healthy development, keeping them from focusing on the developmental tasks they have ahead of them. And so they become stuck emotionally and developmentally.
Our goal is to engage these kids and help them relax enough to be able to focus and play. We have engaging toys and activities, and caring staff ready to shower love and attention. The most challenging children need one-on-one attention from a staff member at all times. We work to anticipte and prevent behaviors. Prevention, prevention, prevention is the key! We want these children to have a safe, loving environment, and so we strive to create and maintain that for them. It’s not just a nice idea – it’s critical for their development!
Is it challenging? Yes, of course! But it is so worth it when you see one of these children feeling safe enough to play, create, explore and just be a child. Far from being just something children do to pass the time, play is an essential developmental task. In other words, children need to play in order to develop into healthy adults. And so that becomes one of our main goals for the program… to play!
“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” ~ Joseph Chilton Pearce