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Attachment Games to play with your littles…

I LOVE when you guys make post requests!!! I’m going to do my best to do a post for as many requests that come my way…so thank you for telling me what you would like more on! Because I <3 (heart) this stuff! Several of you asked to hear some of the attachment exercises/games we here goes! (NEXT to start a transracial family group AND THEN for all you coming to the to prepare your littles for leaving--good advice from more experienced adoption mommas...had to reach out for you because I'm ALSO in your boat!!! Can't wait to share this!) The most important thing for me--or where I always start is EYE CONTACT. Did you know that an infant gets 4 hours of eye contact EACH DAY spread out over 12 feedings??? [p.104, Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child]. This is a skill that is actually PRACTICED and LEARNED from feedings…and in these feedings connection is made (another reason it’s so important for only mom and dad to be the ones to feed baby!) Get this–in the first 2 months of a baby’s life they normally have 200 hours of eye contact during nursing time with their mommy! WOW! This is why its so important to start your connecting here–it may sound simple but it is SO important and we need to replicate this level of eye contact to have “early connection steps” with our little ones. Eye contact is ALSO (for us anyway) THE KEY FACTOR to how our son is engaging and connecting with us. There are days there is almost absolutely nothing I can do to get his eye contact–and that’s when we have to slow down and really focus on connecting. SO…what do we do???

1. Peek-a-boo – We play this daily…several times a day. We will play this with our hands for awhile–and then I’ll just play it with my eyes.

2. Copy Cat/Mirror Games – We play imitating games by starting with eyes again. I will blink over and over and ask my son, “Can you blink?” I keep doing this until he does it with me. To keep him engaged, I will make fish faces, clicking sounds, popping sounds–ANYTHING I can think of and then ask, “Can you make this sound?” He usually laughs and tries to copy me. Because he has to look at me to play these games–and giggles usually follow–we ARE connecting. When this wears off, out come the bean bags. I put a bean bag on my head–and then I quickly lower my head to make it fall. While this doesn’t sounds exciting–a baby thinks it is fabulous. I do this over and over–and then I put a bean bag on his head AND my head at the same time. It is very important for the parent to LEAD–so I lower my head first and wait for him to do the same. Because my son is just 1 year, this activity can last a rather long time (thrilling I know!) but connections are being made–and really, it will melt your heart as this is a beautiful investment into long-term connections.

3. Together Games – Newborns and babies spend HOURS in their mommies laps–but often internationally adopted babies come home able to crawl and walk so they MISS this “together” time connecting with a mom and dad. SOOO…these games encourage that closeness and you have to get creative as when they are mobile it can just be more challenging. Some of our “together games” are: making a tent out of a blanket and getting under the blanket together–my little man LOVES sitting together in the tents his big brother and big sister got for Christmas (yes–I’m GOING to post that tutorial I promise–it would be SO good for this too!!!). My son will sit with me just laughing and LOOKING at me forever in that tent–so create little nooks to sit in together and be close. Another fun thing to do is to buy slinkies and teach your child how to hold one end and you hold the other. You are connected–and you can move away and still be connected and then come back together. This would be a great teaching tool also for older ones how you are always connected when you are close and even when you are farther away.

4. Hide-a-Boo Okay, I totally made this name up. BUT it’s Hide-and-go-seek and Peek-a-boo put together. I let my son see me intentionally hide behind a chair and then I peek around the chair at him at HIS level. Then I poke my head out long enough to make eye contact and once he makes eye contact with me I crawl toward him (this ALWAYS makes him also crawl toward me) and then he giggles when we finally make contact with one another. (Usally followed by tickles). We do this over and over and over and over…

Now these are probably most appropriate for babies/toddlers–but you can make them more challenging and fun for older kids by just making things like the mirror game more challenging and actually taking turns copying one another as if you were a mirror. For eye contact, you can have a contest to see who can look into one another’s eyes the longest without laughing—and while it might not be fun for your adopted child at first—the more you play it they will love it! And the more eye contact the better!

We also do A LOT of “itsy bitsy spider”…favorite songs with hand motions are forms of connecting and mirroring games too. Hope this gives you mommas some ideas…and I know most of you already do some of these without realizing they are also attachment exercises recommended in my stack of attachment books! SOO…there ya go! Next up…the family fellowship group!

Soo….do YOU have some attachment games you could share??? Would love to hear and get more ideas…so feel free to share!

Kelly - January 18, 2011 - 8:30 am

This post is wonderful!! Thank you so much! Our son is 2 1/2 but he still loves these kind of games. He now talks in sentences and so something that I try to do a lot is having “My Favorite” conversations. I make sure he is sitting on my lap looking in my eyes and I ask, “What is your favorite…blue or green? Do you like dogs or cats better?” He loves it and we are having a conversation and I’m getting a lot of eye contact as well. Seems kinda basic but whatever works! 🙂

Elle J - January 18, 2011 - 9:28 am

I can visualize you doing all of these games with ITY, Andrea, and it totally makes me smile. Have a great day!!

Sam - January 18, 2011 - 11:00 am

I love, love, love to turn on music (any kind of music: veggie tales, irish instrumentals, tobymac) and dance with Naomi. She loves it. We just go “with it”. Sometimes she’ll stand and move on her own. Sometimes we’ll hold hands and sway. Sometimes I’ll hold her while we spin and bounce! It’s fantastic.

Allison - January 18, 2011 - 4:04 pm

These are great! We do a lot of this, as well. Some other things that have worked for us are rolling or bouncing a ball together, playing “Ride the Horsey”, having R run to me and then tickling her (you can keep this in your back pocket for later!). Sometimes when we tickle I build up the anticipation by saying “I think I’m going to tickle you on your _____” – that keeps her looking at me. Many times, I will also just touch my nose and say “look at mommy” (read that from another blog). Thanks for posting your ideas!

Rachel N - January 18, 2011 - 4:58 pm

Thank you Andrea. I really appreciate the dialogue and ideas on this topic. With our baby girl, now 14 mos, we have done most of the ideas you mentioned. Also, we do a lot of “where’s your nose? Where’s your eyes… Where’s Mommy’s nose, etc.” Or put a receiving blanket over both of our heads so we are looking at each other and giggling. And we dance together (with me holding her)… and of course, bottle feeding, even after the dr. said we could wean her. For our son, whom we brought home just before his 3rd birthday, we play catch, or roll a hotwheels car back and forth – we wait til he looks at our eyes before tossing/rolling the item back to him. Also, at bedtime, I give him a sippy cup as though feeding a baby (amazing to me, this activity was initiated by him at about the 2 month mark and we haven’t missed a night since.) He and my husband play “hug blitz” where they basically charge at each other, with eye contact, and then hug/wrestle. It’s loud and hilarious to watch. I’m sure there’s more; basically we’re just constant and intentional about eye contact throughout the day.

Martha - January 18, 2011 - 6:56 pm

These are awesome… sometimes I just can’t get my brain to be creative so these are awesome to have in your back pocket!

Cara - January 18, 2011 - 7:13 pm

Such good information you are sharing with us- love it!!! Thank you!

Jackie - January 22, 2011 - 10:53 pm

Andrea- We are home 3 months with our son… he came home at 1 year old. It is so good to hear that some days you have almost no eye contact, and have to step back and refocus on connecting. I can so relate to that… (like just this evening). Thanks for the facts about infants and the eye contact in those early months. I can really see this having bio children. I so want those connections to happen with my little guys!