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Funosaurus is out to play

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Cheryl Hastings put on a dinosaur costume and made a bunch of “silly” videos, all with her young clients in mind.

Struck by their response, the play therapist then decided to do the same for the general public. Her thought: stuck at home for weeks, grown-ups might forget how important it was for kids to have fun.

The videos are now free for watching on Facebook. She hopes it is the start of “an online play community”.

“The videos are to encourage children and their carers to play, just have fun,” said Ms Hastings, who works with children from the age of three through primary school.

“I had these inflatable dinosaur suits, which I got a couple of Christmases ago that we kept. I thought this would be a fun thing to do, to dress up. It just makes things a bit more entertaining. So that's what I've been doing — dressing up in dinosaur suits.”

She got her own kids involved in the videos too. Like his mother, 12-year-old Monty dresses as a dinosaur; Elsie, 15, narrates whatever is going on.

“I thought I might as well share them with my Creative Rumpus Facebook page so other children could have a look and enjoy,” said Ms Hastings, who has posted just under 20 videos so far.

“Parents aren't used to thinking about different ways and different types of play and what helps a child, especially emotionally.”

Something as simple as a pillow fight offers just the type of release that children need, she added.

“Children need to be aware of their physical ability, they need to be able to engage safely with a bit of rough play. It's about inspiring people to think about doing something different and making the children want to try it because there's a silly dinosaur [who does it]. It's about fun.”

With all the changes brought by Covid-19, it is especially important that young children's emotional needs are met.

“We've got a totally different environment happening where parents have got a lot of stresses going on. The world has changed dramatically for the child; they're no longer in the routine they normally have — with the contacts and peer relationships who support them, the outside adults who support them.

“Play is so important. It can help them connect, not only with their carers, but also with their emotional wellbeing. Children, when they're young, they're not going to say ‘I feel sad' or ‘I feel angry' or ‘I feel confused', but they can show it.”

Ten minutes of child-led play time a day should be enough for them to express themselves in a way parents can understand, the therapist said.

“It makes a dramatic difference. The child can show the parent how they're feeling and the parent can reflect back to that child: that piggy looks like it's having a tough time right now. Acknowledge what's happening in the child's world.

“In the school environment they would be doing that. They would be learning through play: counting pebbles, looking at things from nature to make it engaging and kinetic.

“It's hard to do that when children are in a small environment at home and maybe just limited to electronic materials or paper and pens.

“It's just trying to open up, so it involves children's different senses. It makes it a fun experience for them and it can build relationships with people in their home.”

A change in behaviour would be an obvious clue that a child is in need of help. Changes to their sleeping or eating patterns might also indicate they are struggling.

Ms Hastings said: “Maybe they are disengaged from the rest of the family and spending time alone or maybe their mood swings are changing, they're more extreme.

“It's watching your child and seeing what they're showing you and acknowledging what they're showing you. If help is needed, then ask for help. There's quite a lot of services now who've opened up to offering Zoom meetings and support.”

In that vein, she is hoping her Facebook page is the start of a community where people lend their support to others and offer different ideas of play.

“What I'm aiming at is primary school age, but we've been getting in the dinosaur suits. My children are 12 and 15, and we're laughing and having fun. Everybody needs to play.

“If carers spend a little bit of time watching their child, playing with their child, they will learn so much about what's going on in their child's world. If they're engaged, they'll be able to help their child more in this difficult time.”

To join Cheryl Hastings's online play community look for Creative Rumpus on Facebook. Post photos or comments using #DinoPlay Challenge. Learn more about play therapy at creativerumpus.com

Dress code: Cheryl Hastings and her son, Monty, dress as dinosaurs in videos designed to show parents how to play with their children. Her daughter, Elsie, right, serves as narrator (Photograph supplied)
Play therapist Cheryl Hastings is hoping to build an online play community (Photograph supplied)
Play therapist Cheryl Hastings is asking people to share their ideas for playing with young children on her Creative Rumpus Facebook page (Photograph supplied)
Play therapist Cheryl Hastings and her son, Monty, dress as dinosaurs in videos designed to show parents how to play with their children (Photograph supplied)
Dress code: Cheryl Hastings and her son, Monty, dress as dinosaurs in videos designed to show parents how to play with their children. Her daugher, Elsie, right, serves as narrator
Play therapist Cheryl Hastings and her son, Monty, dress as dinosaurs in videos designed to show parents how to play with their children (Photograph supplied)

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Published May 04, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 04, 2020 at 8:09 am)

Funosaurus is out to play

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