Occupational Therapy

Play and Social Skills

Emotional regulation is the ability to regulate our emotions during stressful or uncomfortable situations (e.g., transitions, change in routine, unfairness). As children grow, they learn to develop or master their self regulation skills. As well, part of their self-regulation is needing an adult to model these strategies which is called co-regulation. Learning these skills are necessary to be able to maintain meaningful relationships at any stage of life. Loneliness is now found to have as devastating an impact on their health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness may be defined as feeling alone and misunderstood, regardless of the amount of social contact. When a child has difficulty with managing their emotions across different settings and/or periods of time, it would be beneficial to reach out to one of our occupational therapists. Our goal as an occupational therapist is for your child to recognize, express, and manage their emotions in a healthy way so they can play, engage and have the tools to create meaningful social relationships.

Play is also extremely important, one could even say KEY to your child’s health and development. Children learn social skills, such as reading the body language of others, participating as a team, problem solving, creativity, how to regulate, and helping their sensory systems develop in a healthy way. For example, when a child is playing outside, they may use their sense of where their body is in space to hop over a log and run after another child playing tag. They may use two sticks to imagine a fairy and dinosaur working together to build their fortress made of snow. They may test their physical, cognitive and emotional boundaries and learn what they’re body can do, which will encourage them to continue to build confidence, self esteem, and help them learn how to navigate the world around them with an increased sense of independence.

What are signs your child could benefit from an occupational therapist?

  • Your child is having difficulty making and/or maintaining and relationships
  • Your child is having difficulty playing appropriately with others
  • Having challenging behavior that is disrupting their relationships 
  • You want to help find social supports for your child who is struggling with making friends 
  • Doesn’t tolerate or play with others (playing with others can also be through parallel play)
  • Your child can’t play without structure or direction
  • You feel your child can’t do anything without their caregiver without fear and anxiety

In a nutshell

Here are a few ways an occupational therapist can help:

  • Create a sensory toolbox to help your child regulate so they can play and participate with others
  • Learning social skills in a safe environment 
  • Participating in Theraplay
  • Finding and learning strategies to build your child’s self esteem and self worth
  • Identifying triggers to manage their stressors and behaviors
  • Building awareness of the emotions or arousal level
  • Integrating reflexes that may be impacting your child's potential