Activites to Promote Attachment
These are suggestions
from therapists and parents of RAD kids
- Wear infant in a chest carrier, all
day if possible, facing IN.
- Mom should initially be the only person
who is meeting the baby's needs. Baby needs to build a bond with
one person first, then she can branch out to others.
- Bathe together, to promote skin to
skin contact. Baby & Mom can wear the same lotion so baby
associates scent with mom.
- If you use cologne (or if you don't,
use your shampoo), place a tiny bit on her arm so she has your
smell with her at all times.
- Laminate loving family pictures of
you together and put around her crib and other places.
- Outline her body, as well as your own
on huge sheets of newsprint. Color them (great activity). Tape
the "portraits" to her ceiling.
- When feeding her something she particularly
likes, tell her you are a good mommy/daddy. Telling her with
words that you are a good mommy is important -- otherwise, how
would she know?!
- Play with dolls to act out how parents
always return after child goes to day care, babysitter, bed,
- Draw cartoon panels of the day's routine,
so that your child can see that Mom and Child always come back
to the same home together. Anxiety and stress can interfere with
auditory processing, so it is important to use something visual
that can be held in the hand.
- Give your child a laminated picture
of the family to carry with her all the time.
- Limit choices. At first parents should
make all decisions, including foods, toys and clothes. This helps
the child feel safe. Then as the child becomes accustomed to
the new family, limited choices can be given, e.g. a choice between
- Dress alike. Wear the same colors, type of outfit, accessories,
hairstyle, etc. and point out how you look alike.
- Claim your child. Tell her she belongs to you. Give her a
big hug and say "MINE!" Make up songs about your family,
I am your Mom
You're my sweet girl
Just like a pearl
so rare and precious
You are mine
and I am yours
'Cause together we're a family.
Encourage Eye Contact
"Look in my eyes. Don't look
away" - Mr. Soil from Bug's Life
- Bottle feed no matter what the age.
Encourage eye contact by gently touching her cheek. DO NOT let
her hold the bottle. Nourishment has to come from parent(s);
be sure to hold her when feeding.
- If she turns away (avoiding eye contact)
try placing a large mirror accross from you. That way, when she
turns away, she will see herself in your embrace.
- Continue to hold her in your gaze.
It may take a long time for her to glance at you. When she finally
does, be ready with a warm, loving, approving smile. This sounds
little, but is really big and pays big rewards in our experience.
- Encourage eye contact by gently tapping
the bridge of her nose and yours as a hand-signal to look at
- Stroke her cheek.
- Put her hands on your cheeks. Children's eyes often go where
their hands are.
- Play Peek-a boo. This develops the
concept of object permanence (that even if you can't see something,
it's still there). For kids who are still anxious about Mommy
leaving, repeat "Where's the Baby? Here's the Baby! Where's
Mommy? Here's Mommy! Mommy goes to work, Mommy comes home!"
to emphasize the message that Mommy always comes back.
- Have baby pull a sticker off your nose
- and put it back.
- Wear a stick-on dot or earring as a
- Stare into each other's eyes. If your
child can keep eye contact for 20 seconds, feed her a chocolate
kiss or candy heart. Increase the amount of time.
- MUSICAL NOSE - Sing a song and let
your child pinch your nose so you sound very silly. You stop
singing if she breaks eye contact.
- MUSICAL SWING - put child in baby swing.
Face her as you push. Encourage eye contact by singing a song,
and stopping if she looks away.
- Fill your cheeks with air. Have child
- Take turns feeding each other. This
works great with raisins, cheerios, and popcorn.
- Eskimo kisses - rub noses and stare
into each others eyes.
- Play in front of a mirror. Make faces,
paint Mommy's face, trace each other's faces on the mirror with
washable marker, finger paint with shaving cream. Let your child
be your puppet and make her dance. Make dolls dance. Any kind
of game that gets your child to relax and meet your eyes in the
mirror, will likely get her relaxed enough to meet your eyes
- Instead of using an actual mirror,
take turns being each other's mirror. Sit face to face, and have
your child imitate every facial movement you make, and vice versa.
Then try it with your whole body, mirroring each other's movements.
- For an older child, try lipreading
with each other. While you're not really getting eye contact,
you're at least looking at each other's faces.
Games which Encourage Attachment
- Play hide and seek (also develops object
- Play catch! Roll a ball back and forth
(teaches reciprocity). Throwing or batting a balloon back and
forth may be easier than throwing a ball for little ones.
- Hold baby in your arms and dance with
her. A very synchronous activity.
- Swim together.
- Paint each others faces with paint,
power, or just pretend.
- Put lotion on each other.
- A Memory game but with a more personal
touch: Have your child look you over very carefully. Then leave
the room and return after you've changed something about yourself.
See if she can figure out what is different. It could be something
really obvious for younger kids, like taking off a sweater, but
for older kids you could get more challenging, like buttoning
one more button on the sweater.
- Guess the Goodies: Put several small treats in a bag or cup.
child closes their eyes. You pop a treat in their mouth and they
try to guess what it is.
- Tunnels: Parents kneel on floor forming a tunnel. Child crawls
through the tunnel as fast as they can before the tunnel collapses.
first few times let child get completely through, then have it
gently collapse onto child.
- Pillow ride: have child sit on big floor pillow and you drag
them around the room. You only move when given eye contact.
- M&M hockey: Use bendy straws and blow candy across table
to other persons goal. When you score a goal, the opponent feeds
you the candy.
- Marshmallow fight: Each person uses a pillow as a shield.
Sit on the floor and throw marshmallows at each other. Gets wild
and crazy and is a lot of fun. Can do the same with crumpled
- Crawling into arms: Child starts in corner of room. Cannot
start until adult says go. Start by saying "lo", "mo"
etc. instead of "go" to help child learn to attend
better. Then child crawls across room as fast as they can to
you. You are standing on other side of room and make a large
circle with arms. Child needs to stand up in the circle. gradually
reduce the size of the circle and gets a big reward of kisses
hugs and/or a treat.
- Jumping across pillows to arms: set up pillow islands in
a pattern across floor. Child starts at one end, you are at the
other. Child starts when you direct them to as noted above. Child
jumps across the islands and into your arms.
Finding goodies. Hide candies on yourself and child needs to
- Donut Dare: You hold a donut on your finger through the hole
and the child sees how many bites they can take before it falls
- Lifesavers on Licorice String: Put each end of shoestring
licorice in yours and childs mouth (helps to tie a knot so that
it stays in mouth better). Have a gummy lifesaver on the string.
By standing up and maneuvering without hands, feed the lifesavers
to each other.
Circle of Love
My daughter is 4, and for a long time didn't quite "get"
who she could be affectionate with, and who deserved a handshake
or less. We took a long sheet of paper (therapist suggestion)
and drew a big heart on one end and drew pictures of our immediate
family within it. This was "our family circle of love",
and we discussed how we can always act lovingly toward anyone
in our immediate family circle (*HINT* draw your daughter's birthmother
in there too! I didn't think of it and it came back at me later!).
Then, in smaller descending hearts we drew extended family, then
friends, then doctors, mail carriers, casual babysitters etc.
We talked about appropriate behavior for her toward each group,
practiced scenarios, and I also gave her permission to NOT hug
or kiss anyone outside her immediate family.
What I had been thinking was totally an attachment issue really
turned out to be, for us, a missed-rung on the post-institutional
developmental ladder...the mural idea gave us lots to discuss,
and very much helped her behaviors.
Mouth - to improve speech
- Lots of bubble blowing.
- Drinking with a straw, especially thick milkshakes.
- Whistle blowing (I know, it can become irritating to mom
- Party blowers -- the ones that un-curl and then curl back
- Provide different kinds of textures to move around -- both
with his tongue and with his hands: baby peas, rice, couscous,
puddings, jello. Paint a plate with chocolate pudding and then
eating it off the plate and hands is fun -- although you might
want to try a colored plate and vanilla pudding if your child
is under two.
- Wake up his taste buds -- sour candies like Sweet Tarts,
chili, pepper, mustard, paprika, pickles -- anything with vinegar.
Learning the sour taste is especially important.
- Tapping very lightly above the upper lip above the gum line--but
NOT on the midline.
- Making "mouth music."
- Tear tissue in small pieces or strips and blow it across
the table top.
Tactile - Loubee, Dobee Time
One mom uses Creamy Style Vaseline, and makes lotion time an
attachment activity time with these games:
- Pass the lotion. Get
lots of lotion on your hand and let your daughter try to get
all of it off, and then pass it back and forth.
- Slippy hands. After lotioning
pretend to hold on tight to each others' hands and then "whoops"
slip off backwards with lots of exageration and laughter.
- Hand Stacking. Place
your hand on the bottom, then one of your daughters, then yours,
then your daughters. Slip your bottom hand out and put it on
top. Just keep on going to "build the stack".
- Lotion painting. Paint
pictures on eack other and then rub them in and start over.