Many parents take their children to the park and find a bench in the shade to sit and watch while their children run off and play. But we think a good place to practice the 7 Skills of the 3-5-7 Model© is-you guessed it-the playground! The next time you visit this popular summertime favorite with your child or a child you work with, use the opportunity to hone your skills. Here are just a few examples of what we mean:
- Engaging-ask yourself: When faced with all the choices of activities, do I follow the lead of the child or am I quick to suggest my preferences, perhaps the monkey bars over the swings? Allow the child to make all the decisions about what to play with, when and for how long. And if you are truly up for a challenge, let the child decide when it is time to leave!
- Listening-ask yourself: Do I tune into the stories being told by the child, no matter how nonsensical, allowing myself to become enthralled in the tale or do I tune out when the chatter begins? Children will often create and engage in imaginative play when visiting the park. Allow yourself to go to that world too. Be attentive to the stories they tell and the characters they create. Be genuinely interested in learning about these alternate realities.
- Being Present-ask yourself: Am I attentive to the child during our play time or am I using the time to multi-task? Remember the time that you have together is just that-your time together. Avoid catching up on phone calls or emails, making your grocery list or worse-checking your watch and wondering when you should suggest it’s time to go.
These skills are important whenever we have the opportunity to interact with youth, not just at the playground. A simple way to remind yourself to attend to the skills is to post a note where you will frequently see it.