One of the best things we can do for our kids is aid them in their development of emotional well-being. What better way to do that than through play?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and organizations, companies and individuals everywhere are using this month to continue talking openly about the state of mental health. But when it comes to helping children, Talia Filippelli, founder of Starr Therapy in Hoboken, N.J., says we need not forget about play.
Filipelli is a leading mental health expert and winner of numerous “Top Kids Doc” awards, and she has partnered with The Genius of Play to create a new Emotional Wellness Playbook. The Genius of Play is: a non profit that provides families with the information need to make play an important part of their child’s day. This free resource provides parents and caregivers with screen-free, play-based activities that were designed to help children develop emotional intelligence and to learn how to express their emotions in a healthy way.
Filippelli has worked with The Genius of Play for several years, contributing expert articles that offer parents free resources on a variety of subject matters. At the end of last year, the organization asked Filippelli to create a playbook with a list of concrete activities for parents to use as a resource to engage with their kids in ways that are creative as well as collaborative. In the process of putting together the playbook, Filippelli examined each activity via a lens of what emotional health benefits could develop as a result of play. Play is so much more than just quality time with your kids, she says. It is also an opportunity to help them grow emotionally. “We like to look at play as an opportunity to build emotional wellness skills in children,” she says.
What is great about the Emotional Wellness Playbook is how open-ended it is. Collaborative play is at the center of each activity, so the activities in the playbook can be between a parent and a child, a caregiver and a child or even multiple children. The emotional health benefits remain the same regardless of who engages in the activities. No specific family dynamic was targeted, so the playbook is accessible for all family types. There are even solo activities for kids, such as word searches and coloring pages.
The activities in the playbook are meant to inspire parents to connect and bond with their kids. With the numerous long-term benefits that come from the playbook, a prominent one is normalizing the discussion of emotions with parents and their children.
Talia Filippelli, LCSW, CHHC, CPT, is the founder of Starr Therapy. Visit thegeniusofplay.org for play ideas, expert advice and more play-inspired resources for families and educators.