Playgrounds through the eyes of a highly sensitive child are busy places, full of noise, activity and even danger. If your HSC is cautious or hangs around on the outskirts at the playground, then they are certainly not alone. Here’s why and how you can help them.
Playgrounds are Overwhelming for a HSC
Highly sensitive children notice more of what is going on in their environment than other children so if you contemplate how a playground looks though their eyes for a minute you will understand how quickly their overwhelm builds.
The noise of children playing. Shouting to each other and their parents.
Children running from the seesaw to the slides and back.
The squeaking of the swing chains as they move back and forth.
The roundabout whizzing around with children squealing in delight.
Tantrums as a child tires.
Arguments about who goes next on the slide.
Groups of parents sitting talking to each other.
All noise, activity and stimuli that a HSC needs to process.
HSCs Notice the Possible Dangers
I could fall from a swing.
That climbing frame is high and I could make a misstep.
Children are climbing the wrong way up the slide and I could bash into them.
I could slip on those steps.
I could lose my balance on the roundabout and fall.
Highly sensitive children are naturally observant and because they are fully aware of the possible dangers they are cautious. They need time to warm up. They are therefore more likely to hang around at the side of a playground before they jump in and start playing. They need to feel safe before they climb or grab a swing.
A HSC Needs You to Understand
Pushing your HSC at the playground to ‘go play’ will only add to the discomfort they feel. Give them time to observe and warm up to the idea of playing.
Validate their feelings by telling them what you see,
“It’s busy here today isn’t it? There are lots of children running about and there’s lots of noise. Shall we just sit here for a few minutes and see what’s going on?”
Tips for Taking a HSC to the Playground
- Choose times when the playground is quiet.
- Frequent the same play area as much as possible so that a HSC is familiar with the equipment there, can recognise the same faces and quickly knows that the area is safe.
- Don’t pressure a HSC to play. Let them take their time and warm up.
- Go with a trusted friend so they have an ally with them.
- Give warning that you are going to a playground.
- Give lots of warning about when you are leaving. It may have taken them a long time to warm up and feel comfortable – and just as they reach this stage you announce they need to leave. It’s a meltdown waiting to happen.