Thursday, August 20, 2009

Teaching Adopted Children To Play

One of my big surprises in adopting an older child was that Vu didn't know how to play. I assumed he would have an even greater imagination than other children because of lack of toys in the orphanage. Instead, I discovered a child who could imagine himself in imaginary terms but rarely use concrete objects in imaginary ways.

As an example, he could pretend that he, himself, was a Power Ranger, but he couldn't play imaginary games with a toy Power Ranger. True, he might have fun moving the super hero around but he wasn't able to play out imaginary drama with words and actions.

It wasn't until I read Deborah Gray's Top Ten Hints that I discovered this is common behavior for older adopted children. Learning to play is a skill that is inadvertently taught through common games in healthy families. Somehow I missed this point in Gray's extraordinary book, Attaching in Adoption (a must-read for all adoptive parents).

After reading the article I set aside time everyday to teach Vu how to play. We would play with our toy kitchen, our Playmobile figures and cell phones. Later, we fit in play more naturally.

It wasn't until I was taking this picture . . .

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that I realized Vu now KNOWS how to play pretend. Very well.

Vu told me he was building a big castle and the pirates were coming and they were going to fall into the water. He told me the ninjas (sand blobs) were yelling, "Chop the bridge! Chop the bridge!"

Can you believe that a year ago he still didn't even understand the concept of playing in sand? Amazing.

2 comments:

Sally- That Girl! said...

Bryson didn't know how to play either. I will never forget him having no idea how to play with our wooden train set. People don't understand why now I get so thrilled and misty eyed when I see him building cities and disneyland with the train tracks. I cant get enough of it!!!!

Stevens Family said...

Awesome! I have a friend who just brough home their 5 year old son from Ethiopia and I've showed her a few of your blog entries about older child adoption. This is another good sharable one :) Thanks for sharing all your experience and wonderful stories :)