Play is the special ingredient that offers a full and joyful life.
There are many ways to play unique to each person, place, and time. As we grow and develop, we learn and enjoy life more when we play. Parents can learn and grow right along with their children by being fully present and playing.
Parenting is a profound responsibility. Both mothers and fathers can maintain a balance between the challenges and joys of parenting by remembering that play is the essence of true learning. Play and you are more curious, find more unexpected pleasures, learn moment-to-moment, and create new responses based on what you’ve experienced through play.
Newborns play with nipples; children then turn to sand and toy trucks. If play is the optimum state for learning and well-being why are many working parents driven at work and at home? Both moms and dads report feeling pressure to be “doing something” rather than playing with their children.
When you play as parents you experience something new and can create more easily using your imagination. Whether you play the piano, love gardening and digging in the dirt, or leap out the door every morning for your run—the ways that you play are chosen by you. The choices that you make as a playful parent effect the well-being of you and your children as you grow and learn together.
Ways to play
- Dancing with your children with or without music in your living room and outdoors in your backyard
- Go on walks together in your neighborhood, in a local park, or take a hike or walk on the beach.
- Always wanted to be a Diva! Sing to your children and make up the song as you go along.
- Read out loud together as a family taking turns reading to each other. As your children grow they can take part as “reader”. (Babies learn their language skills by listening to the voices of those who play with them).
- Tell your story to your son or daughter, share your family history, use your imagination and create a story, or talk about your day. (Babies listen and connect through physical, intellectual, and emotional channels). By sharing stories physically, emotionally, and through the sound of your voice you are playfully creating with your children. Play with different movements, characters, a change in tone, and new settings while storytelling (like the planet Kanumba, who lives there?) Children love the regularity of story time just before bed (and its fun for parents too!)
- Show-and-Tell (many kitchen items such as wooden spatulas, timers, shiny objects are great items for baby’s show-and-tell. Your baby is taking in EVERYTHING the world has to offer so be inventive and have fun!—also, take some of your silks, rough, smooth garments, and play with texture and the sensation of touch). For toddlers and preschoolers–put items that are new to your child, are whimsical, or have a particular shape or texture that would be fun to feel for the first time or explore in your pocket–in a paper bag, or wrap the item up in a wash cloth in the bath and watch as the surprise packages are unwrapped.
Ways to Play in 5 Minutes—GO!
Here goes: hiking, walking, dancing, storytelling, playing with Shadow (my golden retriever); watching out for deer, crow, bunnies, coyotes, heron, eagles, heron; traveling and being a tourist in your town, reading poetry out loud, being silly in the supermarket, laughing down into the belly at least five times a day (call me and I’ll fill you in), writing poetry & creative nonfiction, hanging out with a friend over tea or at the beach, hopscotch, playing with kids and families outdoors, playing dress-up with my grandchildren, imagining my next steps, lying down on wet sand, hand dancing, drumming, taking a nap, daydreaming, camping, singing on my island walks, creating beach sculptures, dreaming.
Well, that’s my Playful Parent list (plenty more!)….what are your ways to play?
Play is the key to contentment. This article is only a taste of the many ways that all parents (married, single, divorced) can choose to play for themselves and with their children. Follow nature’s playful plan for all, no matter what your age. Parents who play create a happier, healthier life for themselves and their children
© Copyright 2011 by Mary Alice Long, PhD, therapist in Langley, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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