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Encouraging Your Child to Happily Entertain Themselves

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, quarantined parents have a lot on their plates. The internet is full of wonderful activities to use to teach and amuse young children.  This is great, but not completely necessary.  Children have the innate ability to play, and it's in that play time that they learn endless skills such as problem solving, independence, confidence, and self-regulation.  Their play can soothe them and help them process their thoughts and feelings about everything they're experiencing during this global crisis.  They need to play.  Parents need a break.  No time like now to help your child happily entertain themselves.

As a play therapist, I'm trained to support a child's natural ability to process and heal.  I don't tell them how to do it, I notice what comes naturally to them, and I support them through it. I use this same approach to encourage independent play in my three young kids.

Here are some tips to get your kid playing happily...

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Valentines and Coping Skills

One of the coping skills I teach in counseling is healthy self-soothing -- how to calm down when overwhelmed by anxiety, anger, or stress.  (Cutting, lashing out, or abusing drugs or alcohol are examples of unhealthy self-soothing.)  In therapy we learn new ways to cope.  We practice mindfully calming our nervous system, stressful thoughts, and feelings through sensory soothing -- literally using our senses of touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing to ground us in the present moment and alleviate stress. 

Kinetic sand is fun way to practice healthy self-soothing.  Kids are mesmerized by the stuff! It's amazing to see how quickly their energy changes as they dig their hands into the soft and pliable sand. I offer the box of Kinetic sand to teenagers and adults to play with while they talk.  If I notice them wringing their hands or picking at their cuticles while they talk, I offered them this alternative way to self-soothe. One mom told...

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Toys for Babies!

My first son was 7 months old on his first Christmas. Of course we were excited to give him gifts, but let's be real, he mostly loved the crumpled wrapping paper and lights on the tree.  

We give gifts to babies as a way to connect with and love them, and that is exactly what they need-- connection and love.  

So here are my personal favorite toys for babies:

BOARD BOOKS

Reading to children not only helps with developing language and literacy, but also provides valuable nurturing benefits.  Holding a baby and reading to them not only calms YOUR central nervous system, but it helps the baby learn to calm their central nervous system through connecting with you.  (It also gives you plenty of chances to smell their sweet heads.) Hearing your voice and the changing cadence of your tone while reading soothes them and bonds them to you.  Also, reading and pointing out faces and emotions builds emotional intelligence and empathy as young children begin to...

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My Favorite Toy for the Past 3 Years!

Every time we went to the neighborhood park, my then 2 year old son would play "Ice Cream Store".  He would set himself up behind the little window under the play structure and start serving ice cream.  Pieces of mulch served as the ice cream AND the money and we would play over and over again.  Sometimes my older son would drag giant branches over to the little window that would be REALLY BIG ice creams.  This play continued all year, at every playground we would visit (come to find out, they all had similar little windows). 

So when it came time for me to decide what to get him for Christmas, I started looking for a little ice cream play set.  Little did I know that this toy I bought would become everyone's favorite toy (and therefor MY absolute favorite toy).  Not only did my 2 year old love it, but he and his 4 year old brother played with it together for so long that Christmas morning! And then we took it to our extended family's...

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