(Excerpted from Beth’s book: Fun Games and Physical Activities to Help Heal Children Who Hurt: Get On Your Feet.)
Caregiver–child rocking chair time to help calm brain and body
It’s not just about rocking infants any more. Larger children who hurt can benefit from rocking, too. And so can the caregiver. This comforting act helps regulate children when they are fretting and need help regulating themselves.
It also provides caregiver–child quality “love and bonding” time. How comforting rocking feels for both parties involved. Caregivers can even rock themselves when they feel out of sorts, and it helps to re-set their brain.
Rocking caregivers should add a slowly-sung comforting song, hum something spiritually soothing, or just gently make a “shush” sound with their lips and tongue while taking slow, long, and deep breaths to not only better regulate themselves but to give the child something to match. A regulated parent helps regulate a child. The drawn out “shush” sound and the slow, rhythmic rocking replicates the sound and the movement the gestational infant at least should have received in utero. This movement and sound helps the baby’s lower brain develop in a healthier way to better manage stress. It also helps the older brain do the same.
Caregiver-initiated knee-bouncing games to help install rhythmic synchronicity and nurture trust in children
One of my favorite close times with the adults who loved and enjoyed me as a child was to “Go See Mr. Brown.” I’m not sure where this knee-bouncing game originated, but it could have been passed down generationally through my South Mississippi maternal ancestors.
To perform this adult-activated activity, the child first sits, facing the adult, on the adult’s knees. It’s important that the adult’s face and body language convey confidence and fun with lots of facial expression and eye contact.
The adult securely holds onto the child while the child securely holds onto the adult. Then the adult bounces the child slowly and consistently up and down on
the knees in synchrony with the words and the 60-beat-a-minute rhythm of the following song:
Mr. Brown went to town
Riding a goat and leading a hound.
The hound barked; the goat jumped.
Threw Mr. Brown right down on a stump!
Surprise! The child does not tumble onto the floor. Instead, the adult gently, slowly, and securely tilts the child backward as far as the child can comfortably tolerate without showing signs of anxiety and fear. Then slowly, the adult returns the child to a sitting position on top of the knees. The adult then asks the child, “Who kept you from falling on that stump?” “You did!” is the desired answer. “And I will every time!” can be the adult response.
As the child grows in trust that the adult performing the activity will keep him safe from falling, and will stop if the activity scares him, then the adult may gradually increase the speed and the depth to which the child is tilted back. In the situation of a hyper-vestibular child (child fearful of too much movement), that may not be by much because the part of the brain which reads and adjusts to movement isn’t working as optimally as it should. Heed the expression on the child’s face and take notice of resistance in the body to the tilting back movement. Ask children if they are ready to tilt back. Don’t force a child to tilt back farther than he or she is ready to go. That doesn’t build safety-security-protection-trust.
“Lap therapy” time is supposed to be pleasurable and bonding. It should be mutually enjoyable with lots of eye contact and joyful, loving facial expression on the part of the caregiver!