By Becky Wylde, Clinical Lead at NorPIP, The Northamptonshire Parent Infant Partnership. This play idea is a recipe for something different that will nourish your relationship with your baby or toddler. It is a special kind of child-led play which is known as “Watch, Wait and Wonder”. It looks very simple to begin with, but it can have a remarkably positive effect on both baby and parent. The key is making some time, only five or 10 minutes at a time, maybe 2 or 3 times a week, to be focused solely on your child and following their lead.
Make a quiet space for just you and your little one. Turn off the telly and put your mobile to silent. Then:
- Get down on the floor with your little one and a few nice toys and WATCH your baby.
- Do not initiate anything but WAIT and tune into the baby’s world. WAIT for the baby or toddler’s initiative - let it come from them and then follow their lead.
- Be sure to respond when the infant initiates but do not take over the activity in any way.
- Allow the infant to explore and do what ever they want to do so long as it is safe. They are in the driving seat for a change.
- WONDER what it is they are interested in? What is in their little mind? And what it is that they are communicating to you?
- WONDER how it feels for them to be the centre of the activity and how it feels for you to let them be there.
- WONDER more about what your baby feels and enjoys - what makes them happy or sad, frightened or delighted.
- WONDER at your own growing understanding of your little one.
You might also wonder why this would make any difference! Well, the answer is that our babies are very responsive and very sensitive to the level of our attention. ‘Watch , Wait and Wonder’ gives baby an experience of being not just in the centre of things but actually leading the play and communication. This is very good for them as it grows their capacity to communicate, and their feeling of security. Being noticed and responded to helps our babies and toddlers develop in well-being and confidence. It also helps us as parents to develop our relationship with them - it’s not all one-sided! Parents often find this simple exercise very difficult as it is so different to sit back, wait and allow the little one to initiate. We are so used to playing in an active way, taking the lead and encouraging our babies to play. This child-led play turns all that on its head and it can feel really strange at first. But keep trying! With practice, you will find you both enjoy it and feel relaxed and energised.
Find out more at www.norpip.org.uk NorPIP provide specialist therapy from qualified parent infant therapists. If you’re finding it tough, don’t be afraid to seek help, in confidence, by contacting their team on 01604 924735 (Monday to Thursday, 9-5pm). Depending on your circumstances, sessions may well be free of charge (paid sessions cost up to £40). Northamptonshire Parent Infant Partnership is Northamptonshire’s only parent-infant therapy service which provides help to parents to be and new parents with children up to age two who are struggling to bond. They work with parents who, because of mental health issues, postnatal depression or psychosis, are finding it difficult to connect to their baby and might be finding parenting very hard.