The Healing Effect of Play on Children Who Experienced an Earthquake

Duygu Tükek Aydın
8 minutes

Disasters, such as earthquakes, are traumatic events that have a great impact on children’s lives and can negatively affect their emotional and psychological health. Such situations can have a lasting impact on children’s future lives. It is very important for children to be able to express their feelings and thoughts during this period. Play is a tool to help children express their thoughts and feelings, to stabilize and manage their intense emotions, and to emotionally nurture and support them in their recovery.

Play is a natural life experience for children, a safe environment in which they transfer their experiences and express their feelings. Through play, children can relive what they have experienced or learned, reflect and develop their own unique solutions. Play also helps children cope with stress and emotional challenges. When children play, they can reduce their anxiety and fear and increase their positive emotions.

Play has many benefits for children’s cognitive, emotional and social development. Play has a healing effect on children. We can summarize some of these effects as follows:

Mental development: Games help children develop skills such as problem solving, analyzing, memory and focus. Through play, children have the opportunity to learn new things as well as reinforce and develop existing skills.

Social development: Play helps children develop social skills such as working together, communicating, cooperating, empathizing and others. These skills are crucial for children’s future relationships, family and work life.

Emotional development: Play helps children to understand their emotions, especially intense emotions, to process, stabilize and manage them. Games make it easier for children to cope with stressful situations and help them regain their confidence.

Physical development: Through play, children have the opportunity to develop motor and other physical skills such as coordination and balance.

Creativity: Games allow children to develop their creative thinking skills, use their imagination and imagine different scenarios. This improves children’s problem-solving skills and helps them to become solution-oriented in the face of problems.

For these reasons, play has a great healing effect on children. Play not only helps children to have fun, but also helps them to develop emotionally, cognitively and socially, reduce stress levels and negative emotions, relax, and lead a healthy life. Therefore, it is important for children who experience a traumatic event such as an earthquake to express themselves through play. Games contribute significantly to children’s well-being and mental health. It is important for parents and caregivers to encourage and facilitate children’s play.

Good Game Suggestions for Children

Games for children who have experienced an earthquake can vary according to the age, personal preferences and needs of the children. For many children after the earthquake, games and toys will help them return to a normal life. The following types of games and activities can help children to reduce their stress and contribute to their well-being after the earthquake:

  1. Building Blocks: Playing with blocks develops children’s creativity and problem-solving skills. Furthermore, the organization and reconfiguration of blocks can meet children’s need to rebuild order after an earthquake.
  2. Coloring Coloring allows children to reduce stress and express their emotions. When coloring, children’s attention is focused on coloring, which helps them relax and distract from other stressful situations.
  3. Playing with soft toys: Soft and cozy toys help children feel safe and warm, relax and calm down. Also, by playing with toys, children can make emotional connections and express themselves.
  4. Jigsaw puzzles: Jigsaw puzzles develop children’s mental skills and can increase their ability to focus and calm down. Jigsaw puzzles can be a good option for coping with post-earthquake stress.
  5. Play doughs Play dough develops children’s creativity and imagination. Also, playing with soft materials, such as playdough, can help children to calm down in a stressful and anxious situation.
  6. Card games Card games help children interact with each other and their families. In addition, playing with family and friends helps children rebuild strong bonds during the transition back to a normal life after an earthquake.
  7. Balloons Balloons help children to release their energy and are also a good option to reduce stress.
  8. Puppets / Dolls: Puppets and dolls help children express their feelings and use their imagination to create stories and stabilize their emotions.
  9. Cars: Toys such as ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, scoops and trucks allow children to re-experience what they experienced during the earthquake in a safe environment and to express their feelings and thoughts.
  10. Household Sets: Toys such as household items, repair sets, doctor sets will allow children to express themselves, their feelings and thoughts.
  11. Musical instruments Musical instruments can help children express their emotions, reduce stress and relax.
  12. Clay or dough: Clay or dough can help children to be creative with their hands and reduce stress.
  13. Gardening Gardening helps children spend time outdoors and interact with nature. Simple gardening tasks such as watering plants, cleaning the garden or harvesting vegetables can also help children feel a sense of responsibility towards themselves and nature.
  14. Art materials: Art materials help children to be creative and reduce stress. Materials such as paints, pastels, paper and brushes allow children to express their own dreams and feelings.

These and similar games and activities will help children reduce post-earthquake stress. However, it is important to remember that every child is different and their needs may vary. Children should be able to express their experiences freely in play. It is important to provide free time and space for children to play. It is important not to interfere with the child’s choice of games and toys, and to allow the child to create the structure of the game himself/herself. Only if the child invites the adult to participate in the game.

Children and the Importance of Physical Activity after the Earthquake

We use phrases such as ‘standing firmly on our feet’ and ‘standing on our feet’ to mean meeting our vital needs. In a disaster like an earthquake, the ground shifting beneath our feet can also shake our sense of basic trust. Our shaken body needs to find balance again. Here we can say that there is a connection between the body and our emotions. Physical activities such as play help stabilizethe body, reduce stress in the body and help us feel better emotionally. In addition, physical games increase children’s self-confidence and make them more self-reliant.

Here are some examples of physical activities that children can play:

  • Ball Games: Ball games help children to focus their attention and improve their coordination. For example, soccer, basketball or volleyball can be played.
  • Hide and seek Playing hide and seek allows children to move around and have fun. This game can also help children develop strategic thinking skills, orientation and resilience.
  • Jumping Games: Jumping games help children develop their coordination skills. For example, games such as jumping rope or jumping over rings on the floor.
  • Dancing: Dancing helps children to release energy and reduce stress. Dancing can also help children express themselves through body language and improve their body coordination.
  • Yoga: Practicing yoga increases children’s body awareness and reduces stress. Simple yoga poses can help children strengthen their muscles, increase their flexibility and calm down.

Physical play helps children feel better emotionally by reducing stress on their bodies. However, for children to engage in physical activities after an earthquake, we first need to ensure that they are physically fit. It is also important that physical activities are appropriate to the child’s age, abilities and interests.

Game Considerations

It is important to remember that not every game is suitable for every child. Some games can negatively affect children’s emotional and cognitive development. In particular, games with violent and sexual content or with elements of fear can negatively affect children and harm their mental and emotional development. Screen games without time limits can have negative effects on children, even to the point of addiction. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the content, age restrictions and duration control of the games children play.

Addictive games are games where children and young people spend too much time playing and lose control of their desire to play. Such games can have a negative impact on children’s social, academic or physical lives. Excessive gaming addiction and harmful game content can have a negative impact on children. For this reason, it is important for parents to control the amount of time children play, the content of the games they play, to limit them if necessary, and to pay attention to their choice of games by establishing a healthy balance.


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