The Best Ways for Connecting through Play

“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.” -Diane Ackerman

For children with attachment disorders, hugs and affection may cause acting out.
Play can be a non-threatening way to build connection and teach trust.

Try doing one of these activities at the same time every day so it becomes part of your routine. Give your child some control to cut down on defiance. Try offering 2 choices of activities instead of choosing the activity yourself.

While some children may need these activities as an alternative to snuggles, they will benefit all children.

For children with attachment disorders, hugs and affection may cause acting out. Play can be a non-threatening way to build connection and teach trust. #adoption #play Click To Tweet

Hide and Seek

Verbalize scripts such as “I love you and will always find you,” or “You’ll always be able to find me.” If your child can tolerate it, give him a great, big squeeze hug whenever you find one another. If not, try for a high five!

Role Playing

Whether you’re using blocks, cars, dolls, or dressing up yourself, the imagination is a much safer place to work out some of life’s bigger problems. When pretending to be someone else, kids can create new motor memories for good behavior without feeling shame. It’s also fun to reverse who is the parent and who is the child so they get a dose of their own medicine. It’s also a painfully honest critique of how you’re doing as a parent.

Dress up or Salon

Let your child dress you up or style your hair. It’s a situation that gives felt control but also promotes bonding.

Superman or Airplane

For smaller kids, flying them on your feet while you are lying on your back is great fun. It meets the needs of a lot of sensory kids and promotes eye contact.

Staring Contest

 This is a perfect way to sneak in eye contact. The competitive nature of kids usually overwhelms their aversion for connection. This is a great one for older kids.


This game promotes voice regulation and requires players to get physically close to each other in a non-threatening way. Plus the laughter telephone produces is good medicine for the soul.

Simon Says

This game is great for listening practice. It also exercises impulse control.

Mother May I?

Kids get practice asking respectful questions and parents get practice saying joyful “Yesses.” Win-win!


Take turns leading. The follower mirrors the other person’s movements. This is great practice for kids with motor dyspraxia. Plus, it creates the building blocks for attunement.

Recommended Books

Creative Arts and Play Therapy for Attachment Problems by Machiodi

Attachment Play: How to solve children’s behavior problems with play, laughter, and connection by Solter

Theraplay: Helping Parents and Children Build Better Relationships Through Attachment-Based Play by Booth

I Love You Rituals by Bailey

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Brown

*The links above are affiliate links. By purchasing books through these links, I may receive a small commission which keeps the blog going. Thanks!

Posted in Adoption and Orphan Care, Parenting and tagged , .