Woman playing playfully inside a large, model dinosaur mouth with a child crouching in front.

Put More Play In Your Day

I feel so strongly about the importance of play in our children’s lives that I sometimes dedicate an entire session to talking about it with my private coaching clients. But playing isn't only vital for kids’ learning and emotional well-being – it’s necessary for adults, too.


At some point in our development, most of us hear messages from adults to “grow up”, “act your age” and “be mature.” As we take on more responsibilities and obligations, having fun can get pushed aside. The negative effects of this on our health and relationships should not be overlooked.


Dr. Stuart Brown, the author of Play and founder of the National Institute for Play, has made a career of studying how playing affects children, adults, and other animals. He says that humans are uniquely designed by nature to enjoy and participate in play throughout life.


He considers play to be as essential to our bodies as sleep. Most of us are familiar with the effects of sleep deprivation, but Brown’s research shows a correlation between play deprivation and delinquency, depression, and other health-related diseases.


Being silly with Dalia.


The benefits of play include: increased connection with others, better problem-solving skills, increased energy and motivation, less stress, and more joy.


Dr. Brown defines play as “an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time.”


If you’re out of touch with your playful side, think back to your childhood.  What kinds of activities evoked a sense of joy in you? What could you do for hours, losing track of time?


For me, singing and dancing top the list. For others, it might be a kind of sport, reading, getting out in nature, or creating art. Whatever it is, incorporate it into your life to re-create (from the word “recreation”) the same state of mind that brought you pleasure as a kid.


We don't always have to set aside specific time for play as a separate activity. Playing can be as subtle as shifting your attitude or approach. If you’re feeling disconnected from your kids or spouse, try being more playful. Remember when you and your spouse used to flirt with each other? Bringing that kind of playfulness back into your relationship can help ignite a lost spark.


Turn up the goofiness a bit. Cut loose once in a while. Humor (not sarcasm) can release tension and diffuse or prevent drama from taking over. Recently, Dalia became upset about a limit I set and made an angry face at me. Rather than getting defensive and escalating the conflict, I made a funny face back at her and we both started giggling. I'm also a big fan of fantasy play (read my blog about that here).


The stresses of parenting and marriage can be overwhelming, making the need for play and laughter that much more important.


How do you currently incorporate play into your life? What kinds of play (non-X-rated, please) do you enjoy? How could you include even more of it into your day? Please leave a comment below and let us know.



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Hi, I’m Pam

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Master Parenting Coach, and former K-8 School Counselor, I’m on a mission to empower moms to feel calmer and more connected to their kids.

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