Scheduling family play time is extremely important. Through the eyes of children, parents have a fleeting, but unique opportunity, to see the world in its most perfect form, and as it truly should be, always.
Parents never lose their child-like hearts, when they gather courage, and confidently persuade their children to abandon the insulating power of computer screens, and other gadgets, for quality interactive play time. As role-models, protectors, comforters, providers of unconditional love, and the very first teachers’ children have in their lives, parents have the ability to bring joy, optimism, and peace into this hectic, ever-changing world and into the precious lives of their children.
A Series of Firsts
Today’s modern family, traditional, blended, extended, or other, with all its imperfections, and unique quirks, is still, and has always been, oriented and grounded in love and interaction. In the early years of a child’s life, research has shown, that children naturally engage in play as an essential part of the learning process. Their first attempts at making noise, exploring their environment, pulling books off shelves, banging pots and pans, building with blocks, crawling, climbing, walking and running, are all part of their cognitive, communicative, and social development. Mimicking the care that they are given by their parents: feeding their dolls, putting their stuffed teddy bears to bed, pretending to read picture books out loud, creating with crayons, chalk, and finger paints, dancing to music, these are the fundamental activities in which healthy, high-functioning, resilient, children naturally engage in, almost from birth.
When play time is initiated and guided by nurturing parents, who gleefully want to have fun, and are looking to generate “aha” moments that children will remember always, everyone benefits. As children enter preschool, and kindergarten, increased emphasis is now placed on academics such as reading, math and early computer competence. Playtime has now been greatly reduced. Of course, children need these skills, however, they also need to play, in order to develop the social and emotional skill sets upon which relationship building and happiness are derived.
When mom’s and dad’s play with their children, amusement, amazement, and astonishment take place. Whether you’re playing games which require a lot of strange posing and stretches like Twister, and shrieks, squeals, groans, and moans become mixed with hilarious laughter; or you’re exercising team-building and strategizing skills, with card games like Spades or Uno, setting up intricate dominoes patterns, or competing against each other for the fastest time at puzzle completion, pizza dough creation, bike racing, or soccer scores; every moment of these activities creates a priceless positive family connection.
Fully engaged and playful parents spend time every day “listening to”, laughing with, expressing loving feelings, and encouraging their children to be good, kind, respectful, and grateful. By setting positive examples during family play times, where relaxed silliness, friendly competition, and enjoyment of life’s stress-free moments is happening; parents learn about their children’s’ interests, desires, friendships, dreams and disappoints too. Showing warmth, and an emotional connection through:
• kind facial expressions
• personal story telling
• being compassionate when winning or losing
• Having calm and lasting patience during game playing
and, yes, admitting parental faults, flaws and mistakes made growing up in earlier times, (known by children as “navel gazing”), encourages children to find their own identity, with confidence, through self-expression, mirrored from their positive parents.
How to Work Play into the Family’s Routine
Being aware that play changes as children grow older, and understanding that it does “not” mean that they no longer crave connectivity and amusing recreation; wise parents just re-invent the “play” to reflect growing curiosity, and expanded interests. Although, finding the time to rachet up the activities to new levels of fun, is often daunting, since parent’s work days are long and often stressful, it can and must be done. When a family routine, after homework, includes:
• Cooking together at dinnertime, while listening to all kinds of music
• Getting outside for a quick game of “horse” basketball,
• Inventing silly science, like erupting volcanoes, with household items
• Using a Fitbit to get everyone to walk 500 steps before dark
• Planting a veggie garden that everyone plants, waters, picks from and eats
• Biking to the pond to feed the ducks
• Watching the moon eclipse or other celestial events together before bed
• Engaging with board games and taking the Lucky Poke Challenge to see if stopping at one poke is do-able
All of these playful, shared experiences, and many more, support the best aspects of physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth in children, and strong, lasting, loving, invaluable connectivity, within the family unit for a lifetime.
Benefits of Family Play
Healthy, happiness-oriented, family relationships are a balancing act of effort, prioritization of have-to-lists, school work, extra-curricular activities, and opportunities for socializing with peers. Family play is the “gorilla glue” which forms lasting ties, and it should be joyful, not a task that must be purpose-driven. Since parents and parental figures want their engagement/play time to frequently have memory making, joyful, emotional positivity; creating a family ritual of time set aside, just for each other, has a huge impact on the quality of each member’s life:
• Respect and trust are cultivated, during these special times
• Making amends for mistakes made and owned by all, is learned
• Resolutions to challenges faced, are found mutually
• Care, kindness and calmness in social interactions becomes the “norm”
• Family planned adventures, or special brief moments of frequent child-preferred activities, are the most powerful opportunities for pure joy shared
Through time shared with empathy, tenderness, humor, love, promises kept, and truth, everyone learns that there is no perfection, only forgiveness, and tolerance in a life. The truest benefit for all is learning how to live fully together, knowing that endless possibilities exist for each person to have a happy, dream-fulfilling, productive life.