“The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.” – Erik H. Erikson
Play is how children make sense of the world and of their experiences in it. It helps them to learn, discover new things, master skills, and process emotional upset. Play lets children be the master of their own universe where they are in charge, competent, and can do anything. It lets them recover from stress and challenges they may face in school or other areas of their lives. For adults play gives us a reprieve from the fast paced demands of our work and family lives. Play is way to connect with our children, to strengthen bonds, or to reconnect after a period of separation. Play allows us to build intimacy and closeness in our relationships. Opportunities for play surround us everywhere and can be done at any time. Instead of nagging at our children to comply with our requests or getting frustrated with them when they aren’t listening try making the situation playful to engage them. You are more likely to get your child to engage when they think it is play than when they think of it as a chore. Remember that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
When your child asks you to play, say yes and then become a part of their world. Get down on their level and see the world as they see it. Suspend belief and embrace joy of playing. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” It is one we all have, yet many adults have forgotten how to play along the road to adulthood. Let your children remind you how to play because your life will be better for it. Your relationships will be better for it and so will your mood. Your kids don’t care what kind of day you had at work or what is still on your to-do list. They just want to spend time with you and be close to you. And if all this weren’t enough here are some more reasons to play:
1. Play teaches us to use our imagination
2. Play decreases stress and frustration
3. Play can help us solve problems
4. Play improves cognitive functioning
5. Play increases social awareness and cooperation.
Whatever else you do today, I want to challenge each of you to take a moment to indulge your inner child or the very real child in front of you who is asking to play. It costs you nothing and can yield so much benefit. Go ahead and laugh and sing and dance and imagine and create.