I often end up in a conversation with parents and
professionals I am coaching about what I call “collapsing the play triangle”. The
image I create is of a triangle with the child at one point of the triangle,
the adult (parent or professional) at another, and a toy at the third
Oftentimes I see parents and
professionals putting forward lots of energy in getting the child to focus on
the point of the triangle that has the toy.
This can be good because joint attention where the adult and the child
are both engaged with the toy together is a very healthy and joyful
However, I very much want
parents and professionals to think about how to collapse the triangle in a way
that the adult becomes the play object.
When this happens, the adult is
the toy and thereby in playing with the toy the child is playing with the adult.
Essentially the triangle collapses and the
child is interacting with the toy and the adult at the same time because the
adult is the toy.
We hear adults often
say as they reflect back on their process of learning DIR, “I had to learn how
I think becoming the play object
is the biggest shift that is central to that reflective statement.
Adults often focus on finding ways of getting
the child to attend to a toy or focus on a toy and say things like ,”look” or “see”
or "come" as they present the toy in an exciting way.
But, that all changes if you realize that you are the best toy in the
room. When you become the toy, when the child is intentionally playing with you, their
brains are “lighting up” with connections and activity that is REALLY good for
Please keep in mind, this is not forcing the child to play with you or to interact in a way that creates distress. This is about using rich affect and joy in an inviting and respectful way that creates the opportunity for engaging together. It creates the opportunity for shared joy and circles of communication. Simply put, it crates the opportunity for development. So next time you play with a
child, see how many play triangles you can collapse.