Teach Our Children to Play

 If you announced one morning that all electronics, video games and television were banned for the day, would your children know what to do? Yes they can read a book but seriously, is that how you would have spent the day as a kid? No way! We knew how to play! Because of the electronic age, the art of real true “play” is fading away…unless we reclaim it Moms and Dads.

When I was a little girl, my Barbies were my world. As I choreographed their imaginary lives, I could be anyone I wanted to be. I was beautiful, smart, and it never rained on my red sports car convertible. The one thing that I loved to do most with my Barbies was decorate my “Townhouse”. And I had connections. You see my Mom (who I lovingly refer to as Martha Stewart South) worked as a consultant for Home Interiors, a home decorating company. She would save all of her old merchandise brochures and give them to me. I would painstakingly cut out framed pictures, lamps, and figurines and tape them to the walls of my townhouse.

I have sweet memories of sitting in the front yard on a hot summer morning, with my best friend, Kathy, playing with the Barbies that we spread all over the grass. And yes, we’d even drag the townhouse out there. At the time, I never dreamed of sitting with my little girl decorating her townhouse, but we do. We meticulously cut out pictures from art magazines and tape them on her walls. She wouldn’t know how to tap into this world of free creativity had my Mom not done the same for me.

Just the other day, I saw that creativity flow when I asked her what she’d like to do. She said she’d like to take some paper, divide it into four sections, choose four really pretty spots around our home and just sketch them. We sat in the crisp afternoon sun out in the middle of our field and drew and talked for an hour.

True “play” releases fear and worry and unleashes freedom. It gives us adults a grounding to move forward by taking us to a refreshing place away from our everyday lives. This is the time that counts, the time that lasts forever in my memory. This is what we have to hold sacred, work hard for, and never minimize.

How do we begin?

Be the initiator. It all begins with setting aside time that is completely devoted to family play. That’s fairly easy when we stop for a moment and actually do it.

Be patient with your kids.If your kids have lived for a long while in the electronic age, then you are in essence, undoing a learned behavior. If older kids seem uninterested or even annoyed at the idea of “playing”, then just concentrate on the younger kids. The older ones will see the fun being had and the closeness you’re experiencing and they’ll want to be a part of it. I love the power of suggestion.
What do we do?
Keep a notebook of ideas. (This is key.) *a spiral notebook. *a list on Evernote.*a folder with cutouts of magazine photos.

Journal about your childhood memories of play that you want to pass along.

You’ll be amazed at how inspired you’ll become just by reflecting on your own life. You may even remember that you were an expert in one or two of these activities.

Search the internet for unique activities. Find something that you’d like to learn or that you may have simply forgotten about.
Some ideas

For girls

- A dress-up talent show (a clothesline outside with a sheet makes a great stage curtain) And don’t just be a spectator. Jump in with your talent Mom and Dad.

- Do an art project outside on a sunny day. There are endless projects at our finger tips now on the web. You could set aside one afternoon a week devoted to a simple project together. Imagine the art gallery you could create.

- Make crazy snacks together.

- Set up a classroom in her room or playroom with a small chalkboard, organized papers, and a small table for her dolls. Ask her to envision the perfect classroom and get creative on how you can simulate those ideas

.- Both of you try to write a poem about your favorite person or place.

For boys

- Build a boat that actually floats…then float it on a creak.

- Start a game of good old fashioned kickball.

- Give him permission to take apart an older electronic toy. See how it works. See if he can put it back together. You just might be fostering the next mechanical engineer.-

- Challenge him to a 1/2-mile run. Let him choose, on his own, to go further. Then look at the accomplishment and enjoyment in his eyes.-

- Set up an archery range in the backyard.

For Both-

-Invite friends over for a Relay Race Day  (garbage bags for the sack race, streamers for a finish line, some water balloons for a toss…and you’re good to go.) Your kids will talk about it for years.

- Geocaching. If you haven’t tried this, read about it. It’s fantastic.

- Teach them a little bit of trick photography techniques.

- Let them produce their own music video.

These are all easy-to-do ideas, but unless we make the decision to make it important, our children will never know the simple joy they can have. Foster your child’s imagination, create a lifelong place of refuge, make priceless memories, and enjoy family closeness like you’ve never experienced before with good old fashioned “play” today.

Kelly Breece

Blogger on The Simplified Family

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