Building a Playful Relationship with Your Child

The Power of a Positive Relationship

Perhaps nothing impacts on a child’s development more than relationships. It is through relationships that children learn how to think, communicate, behave, and express their emotions – in fact, relationships are the building blocks of a child’s personality.

With relationships being so important in a child’s early years, it is necessary for parents, teachers and caregivers to, as much as possible, ensure that the relationships they have with children are nothing but positive.

Children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships, and overall such relationships do go a long way towards helping them grow into well-rounded adults.

Power Positive Relationship

A positive parent-child relationship

Children normally start their relationship journey with their parents, and it is through this parent-child relationship that they first get to learn about their world. When your toddler gazes at you, makes a facial expression, makes a vocalization or uses body language to get a message across, they expect a certain response from you.

When they cry because they’re hungry, you respond by feeding them; and when they cry due to tiredness, you sing a lullaby while rocking them to sleep. Interactions like this teach your toddler that they live in an understanding and caring world where they can express their needs and get responses that are predictable.

So, a positive parent-child relationship may be described as one in which the parent consistently responds in satisfactory ways to the needs of the child, and the child feels secure in the knowledge that they will always be taken care of.

In such a secure relationship the child develops a healthy attachment to their parents, and parents in their turn become even more deeply dedicated to the well-being of the child. Strong parental bonding/attachment resulting from a positive parent-child relationship early in life is likely to improve the mental health of the child and make them less prone to behavioral problems in later years.

Another aspect in which a healthy parent-child relationship has a significant effect is in the emotional development of a child. One reason for this is that early parent-child relationships often involve discussions about emotional states.

A number of studies indicate that there are strong links between children’s discussion of emotions with parents and their understanding of emotions – in other words, a parent-child relationship characterized by open communication about positive and negative emotions is key to a child’s emotional understanding and well-being. Such makes a child better able to manage their emotions/feelings.

A trusting and caring parent-child relationship is also the foundation on which a child establishes their sense of identity and develops a high self-esteem; these, combined with a healthy emotional state, promote independence in a child, and make them more willing to explore new things, as well as develop positive relationships with others.

Going further, a positive parent-child relationship helps the child cultivate more of the traits and skills they require to be successful in life. When the interactions between you and your child are warm and loving, they tend to become more confident, resilient, and better able to communicate.

These skills and traits will come in handy as they navigate through life – a confident child can more easily face challenges and take bold steps, a resilient one will find it easier to handle stress, and one that is good at communication will be better at building rapport with other people.

Overall, a positive parent-child relationship that involves spending quality time with your child, caring for them in a sensitive, responsive and predictable way, open communication, and building trust, lays the foundation for your child’s emotional, mental, cognitive and motivational development; it also improves their linguistic, communication, social and other skills.

Infusing more positivity into your relationship with your child

Best Practice Kindergarten Bangkok

In addition to being available and responsive to their needs, you and your child can experience the full power/benefits of a positive relationship when you also:

  • encourage interaction through frequent eye contact, smiles, and warm expressions, and regard every interaction as an opportunity to bond with your child;

  • listen to them, acknowledge their feelings, and let them know you understand and empathise with them;

  • frequently remind them that you love them, even after scolding them for naughty behavior;

  • eat meals together;

  • play with them as much as possible; and,

  • work with them to overcome challenges.

A positive teacher-child relationship

In a day care setting, there are various ways teachers could build positive relationships with the children under their care.

A teacher could give personalized attention to a child by engaging in one-on-one conversations with them, or getting on their level for face-to-face interactions when necessary; a teacher could also listen to the child, address them in a calm, pleasant and respectful manner, help them understand classroom expectations, guide them towards achieving academic and social objectives, gently correct them when they engage in inappropriate behaviors, encourage their efforts, acknowledge their accomplishments, provide warm and reassuring physical contact (such as hugging or back-patting) when necessary, and follow their lead during play.

Such positive actions as outlined above make it easy for a child to develop a warm and trusting relationship with their teacher.

Positive and secure teacher-child relationships that also take into account their individual, linguistic, and cultural needs can go a long way towards enhancing the academic, social, and emotional development of a child.

A child who has a healthy and supportive relationship with their teacher – as opposed to one whose relationship with their teacher is conflictual – naturally performs better academically, which is not surprising. Various studies have shown that positive teacher-child relationships make kindergarteners less likely to avoid school, promotes their adjustment to school, make them more self-directed and cooperative, and less likely to experience loneliness in school.

Also, if your child has bonded with their teacher, often converses with them, and gets more of constructive guidance and positive reinforcement from them, their desire to learn will increase; they will inevitably behave better in class, show more engagement with academic activities, and strive to attain higher levels of academic achievement as a way of appreciating or impressing the teacher.

Social maturation has a lot to do with relationships, and so a quality teacher-child relationship contributes to the growth of a child’s social intelligence. According to research, a teacher-child relationship that is positive helps children develop prosocial behaviors such as altruism and cooperation; it also helps ensure that classroom misbehaviors including aggression and bullying are kept to a minimum. And when they feel supported by their teacher, a child will tend to be less frustrated and argumentative.

So, kindergarten teachers who build positive relationships with their students directly or indirectly create a classroom environment that is more conducive, one in which the children’s academic, social, and other developmental needs are more easily and adequately met.

On a parting note, positive relationships result to better outcomes, but not only for the child involved. As they endeavor to build positive relationships with children, teachers improve their teaching and interpersonal skills; they also undergo personal and professional growth. Parents, on the other hand, experience a sense of happiness and satisfaction when they are in the best of terms with their children, as this is an indication that they are being successful at parenting.

Continue on this page to read:


5 Tips for Discovering your Child’s Interests

All kids have curiosities and interests. Being able to identify their interests can help us to learn what their strengths are. In doing so, we can help develop their self-awareness and self-esteem in a healthy and natural way. Additionally, discovering your child's interests can help prepare them for school and extracurricular activities. We should strive to provide a nurturing and creative environment for children to explore their interests freely. We believe that play-based learning can make a huge impact on a child’s development and can help parents foster their child’s strengths and confidence early on.

So how do you go about finding their interests? This article will provide you with useful tips on how to identify your child’s interests and strengths naturally.

  1. Observe how they play

Children are natural-born explorers and storytellers. They’re not merely building blocks, drawing pictures, or playing dress-up. Their imagination is limitless; they are constantly creating stories within their playtime. Through observation and assessment, we can learn what they like, what they can do, and what they gravitate towards. Attentive observation plays a huge role in figuring out where your child’s abilities and interests lie.

There are many ways to observe your child while they’re playing; it’s important to gather as much detailed information as possible to make correct assessments about their interests. Here are a few techniques that could be useful:

  • Checklists: create a pre-determined checklist to gather what their strengths and skills are. Try to create as many detailed points as much as possible.

  • Documenting: this could be a portfolio of your child’s work, photographs, transcripts or recordings that involve your child’s learning and playtime.

  • Anecdotal Records: this technique uses factual accounts of events your child has experienced in the past tense. It should describe your child’s behavior and responses to an event or learning experience.

  • Learning Stories: this method requires you to tell a story about your child’s experiences and decisions and the consequences of those decisions. It can be a short paragraph or an entire page.

2. Write it Down 

While observation is important, it’s easy to forget what your child’s interests are daily. Try writing down your observations and what their interests are. You can even create a simple checklist to help track your child’s likes and dislikes. Some questions to keep in mind are:

  • What makes your child laugh/smile?

  • What usually keeps your child’s attention?

  • What do they get excited about?

  • What gets them to try new things?

  • What do they spend time doing the most?

  • What do they usually work hard at doing?

Once you’re able to gather enough information, you may notice that your child’s interests can be grouped into two categories: personal and situational. Personal interests include general likes, favorite things, and activities. Situational interests are when a situation, event, or activity attracts a child’s attention and they naturally want to be involved in that event. Take notice of these two types of interests as they can help you better assess your child’s likes and dislikes.

3. Listen to them 

One of the most effective ways to discover your child’s interests is to listen to them. Try setting aside time for a conversation. This will help them to express themselves more freely and helps you to gather what they like and dislike through their body language and words. It’s important to actively listen when they are expressing their feelings or concerns. You can do this by building on what they are saying, observing their body language, not interrupting them, and letting them do the talking.

4. Be open to their ideas

Apple Tree Kindergarten is an international preschool in Bangkok that uses an Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. We value observation, curiosity, exploration and hands-on experiences to develop a child’s learning and growth. Having this open-ended approach to learning is a great way to find out what your child’s strengths and interests are. When you allow them to express and voice their experiences freely, that’s when you can really notice where their gifts lie.

5. Provide them with opportunities

Create learning opportunities that encourage children to be themselves and explore their interests. If you observe that your child loves to draw and paint, perhaps provide them with more art classes and tools so they can explore their creative side. Providing your child with opportunities based on their interests will not only increase their confidence but will help parents recognize what their strengths are and develop their natural tale.

Development in The First 5 Years

The first five years of a child’s life is a critical time for development. During these early years, both body and brain are going through a period of rapid growth. 90 percent of lifetime brain development occurs within this five-year period.

Every experience young children have is an opportunity for learning. These early activities help to lay foundations for later. For example, the more words a child hears during his first few years, the better his language and communication skills will be in later life.

Early cognitive, social, and emotional development is linked with academic progress, social skills, personality, behaviour, and the ability to concentrate as an older child and adult. If certain skills aren’t learned during this time, they can be very difficult to learn later. This is why adults who learn a second language almost always have an accent and may find certain sounds almost impossible to pronounce.

How Experiences Shape Brain Development

While the brain has some limited capacity to generate new brain cells and repair damaged cells in adulthood, generally speaking children are born with the brain cells they will have for the rest of their lives.

Neural connections between these cells are what enable the brain to move, think, and communicate with others. These connections are being built at a rapid pace in the first few years of a child’s life – around one million new connections (synapses) are built a second, which is more than at any other stage of life.

Synapses are built through experiences and interactions with the world, and the amount and type of stimulation children receive in their early years determine the rate of development in different areas of the brain.

By the age of eight months, a baby may have as many as 1,000 trillion synapses. As the brain continues to develop, synapses in the areas of the brain that are not being used are lost. This means that children deprived of a stimulating environment or normal life experiences at an early age may struggle with basic tasks or interactions with other people that would normally come easily.

The Importance of Learning Through Play

Play is, of course, fun for children, but it’s also an important developmental activity. Play helps children to learn through experimentation and observation and often involves problem-solving, analytical, and motor skills.

Play shapes the brain by building and strengthening neural connections and may even increase the ability and potential for learning new skills later in life. The type of brain development that is stimulated by play cannot be replicated with any other activity.

Children who have ample opportunity to play freely develop better language skills, improved memory and cognitive skills, can regulate their behaviour and emotions more easily, and often do better at school later.

Relationships and Social Development

A child’s relationships with his parents, peers, and other caregivers shape his view of the world and help him to learn important social skills. At around the age of two or three, children advance from playing in parallel to playing together with others, which promotes language development as well as learning how to interact and communicate with others and solve conflicts.

Emotional and social development starts from the very first days of an infant’s life. Children who feel safe and secure, surrounded by loving adults will have the confidence to explore the world around them and will find it easier to develop healthy supportive relationships as an adult.

Nurturing and positive relationships with adults are vital at this critical stage of development. This is important for every person the child has regular interaction with – including caregivers and teachers, as well as his parents.

It’s therefore important when choosing a nursery, or a daycare facility for a young child to make sure it is staffed with attentive, caring individuals, as well as providing a stimulating environment for play and learning.

The First 5 Years – a Vital Foundation for Later Life

This critical window for development shapes a child’s future and influences their potential for learning long term. Not every parent or carer realises the importance of these first few years and once they’re over, this period of rapid brain development and opportunity for brain development will never be repeated.

By making sure children are provided with a stimulating environment, positive and supportive relationships, and plenty of opportunities for unstructured free play, they will be given the best chance of success in later life.

Why You Should Treat Your Child as a Unique Individual

All too often, parents compare a child to their siblings or peers rather than view them strictly as individuals.

But, while your children may share several characteristics which they inherited through your complex DNA, studies and experience have shown that recognizing and focusing more on each child’s uniqueness – even if they happen to have an identical twin – is important, and the right way to go.

Why is it important to respect your child’s individuality?

Why You Should Treat Your Child as a Unique Individual

Each child is an individual learner who develops, not only in their own ways, but also at their own pace; a distinct entity born with a unique mix of needs and abilities.

Treating them as such can positively influence each and every area of their development, whether it is physical, emotional, social, or cognitive.

In their early years, children can be very vulnerable, one reason for this being that they have not yet developed a solid perception of themselves. Relating with them as unique individuals right from this stage can help them develop a strong sense of identity while becoming confident and resilient.

Spending a lot of time in groups makes children susceptible to peer pressure; and that is a good reason to, whenever appropriate, encourage them to feel comfortable doing their own thing. Letting your child know it is okay to be different, and there’s nothing wrong if they don’t think, or maybe draw, sing or dance the same as others in their peer group, helps to minimize the effects of peer pressure.

Giving your child the freedom of choice as a way of respecting their individuality is also beneficial. Some parents just go on to, for example, enroll their child into a certain club or activity, not because they asked and he/she indicated interest in such, but just because some other children are into it and they think theirs will fit in, too.

But when your child has some freedom to consider various options and choose the one(s) they are most comfortable with, they will likely grow up to become good decision-makers; and because it allows them feel they have some control over their life, this freedom of choice will help to promote self-reliance as well.

When children are frequently reminded, through words or gestures, how unique and valuable they are, they tend to develop a high sense of self-worth; they also find themselves in a better position to, in turn, appreciate/value the uniqueness of their siblings, peers, parents or caregivers.

It is often the case that parents entertain preconceived notions regarding how they want their child to grow up, what they want them to be, who they want them to behave like, etc; it is also generally the desire of parents that their child possess qualities of a certain nature, such as energy, curiosity, friendliness, cooperativeness, the ability to learn fast, and so on. So when the child doesn’t quite turn out the way(s) they expect, some parents express disappointment and may even allow it to influence their treatment of the child.

But as a parent, recognising that it is important to respect your child’s unique traits and abilities regardless of your expectations saves them from tending towards self-doubt, anxiety, low self-esteem, and defiance, all of which could be their natural reaction when they discover you don’t quite like/accept them as they are.

In terms of social benefits, a child who has been given the room to express their uniqueness without undue criticism tends to perform better in social situations. Not giving your child enough room for expression may give rise to mental or psychological stress, leading to the development of anti-social tendencies and behavioral problems.

When you acknowledge the unique talents innate in your child and encourage them to develop these talents, their morale is boosted, and they are motivated to achieve exciting results on their own. In other words, respecting a child’s individuality could also help them develop a sense of independence.

In summary, you should treat your child as a unique individual because doing so increases their confidence and resilience, enhances their decision-making abilities, gives them a high self-esteem, makes them self-reliant, saves them from self-doubt and unnecessary anxiety, makes them more socially-fit, enables them to appreciate the individuality of others better, and moulds them into more independent individuals.

Ways to encourage your child’s uniqueness

Why is it important to respect your child’s individuality

So, we have discussed the importance/benefits, but what are some ways you can, through words or actions, treat your child as the unique individual they are? You can start by…

1. Discovery. Interact with, and observe them closely to learn how they think and feel about certain things, what makes them tick, what they are good at, etc. Question them and listen to them with an attitude of interest, understanding and acceptance.

2. Motivation. Frequently tell and show your child that you believe in, and value their, individuality and how it serves to complement your family. Be genuine about it.

3. Encouragement, not criticism. While watching your child drawing, painting, playing a game, learning a skill, or performing, for example, do so with a smile, words/gestures of encouragement, or applause. Try not to criticize even if their performance isn’t quite what you would like it to be.

4. Empowerment. There are certain gifts/talents your child was born with; encourage them to explore these gifts, and provide them with the means of advancing these talents as far as possible.

5. Exposing them to different experiences and opportunities. Think music, drama, sports, art, reading, visiting museums, parks, and so on. The more your child is exposed to such, the faster they will discover who they really are, what they prefer, and what they are capable of. 

5. Letting them direct. While engaged in certain activities such as play with your child, just let go and allow them to direct the play and make up the rules if they desire.

Your child is a unique gift and an original, so as a parent, always remember to treat them as such; allow them to follow their own path, and resist the temptation to try and make them what they are not.

Recognize, accept, appreciate and encourage your child’s individuality, and then watch them become well-rounded individuals capable of reaching their full potential and making a difference in the world.