Attachment-focused play is characterised by shared activities involving eye contact and mirroring. Try to ‘follow, lead, follow’ (Hughes) whereby you let your child explore; show enjoyment in what they are doing, mirror it and build upon it for them (known as scaffolding). This helps children experience reciprocal relationships and learn that you can influence each other.
For children who haven’t left your side for some time, “object permanence” games (which show you going away but will come back) such as hide-and-seek can help them cope with increased separation anxiety that they may feel with the return to childcare or school.
 Hughes & Guerney-Smith (2020). The Little Book of Attachment: Theory to Practice in Child Mental Health with Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy.
At times it is helpful for parents to more actively guide a child’s play. For example, through role-playing going back to school. This can help children mentally rehearse forthcoming changes, support them to understand feelings they may have around this and help them feel more prepared, and less anxious.
Get some props and use your calmest teacher’s voice. Remember to play out the things they are looking forward to as well as those that they are worried about. Make sure you put your child’s actions into words and talk about their feelings.
Where play is the act of doing, playfulness is a way of being. Playfulness is about trying to keep communication positive and light – sing, make up rhymes and do silly dances! When parents are playful children are more likely to feel that they are enjoyable to be around which feeds into a positive sense of who they are.
Focusing on playfulness as a core ingredient in your relationship will help you both feel more able to manage what the world is throwing at you. Anything that supports your child to feel more connected with you at home will go a long way in helping her feel more able to return to school, knowing there is a safe base to return to.
Help Children Unwind
Adapting to the demands of school may leave your child exhausted. Why not set up a den with them at home so they have a cosy, protected space to unwind after the challenges of the school day. As well as having blankets and cuddly toys, a box of sensory items, e.g., bubbles and playdough and a few stories may be useful.