Parenting these days often consists of a constant dash between school, work, errands, after school activities and mealtimes. There are a million balls to juggle. We have smart phones, review sites and social networks to help us stay in contact and understand all the choices we have to make. Our plates are full and often, when push comes to shove, play time gets pushed right off.
I’m the mother of four children and I understand how easily play can be discarded, even as a play advocate and teacher who sees the importance of play firsthand. In order for our kids to be playful, we need to maintain our playfulness as parents – but how? There are plenty of quick fixes out there, such as turning off your cell phone or making a screen free evening (both of which are good), but they aren’t going to make lasting changes. I believe that dedicating ourselves to playfulness starts in the heart.
You see, just because we turn off our phones doesn’t mean we play with our kids or even feel playful! We may just be in agony, waiting to turn it back on (admit it, you’ve been there!). These quick fixes are nothing more than mental maneuvers – and they don’t necessarily keep us connected through play with our families.
It’s surprisingly simple to take the first step toward regaining your playful heart. You just have to remember how it feels to play: to belly laugh, put your toes in the grass, roll down hills, slide into home, or yell “Red Rover, Red Rover” at the top of your lungs. It’s recapturing those moments of your childhood that you spent screaming happily, almost touching the bar on the swing set, getting chilly or hot and not caring, getting prune fingers in the bathtub, giggling during a sleep over.
If we can remember what these things felt like when we were young, we can take a deep breath into them and remember the empowerment we felt in these moments. It was as if there was no other being on the planet, as if all the forces of life were being channeled through us and we were powerful, truly powerful.
I see my ten year-old son and I know his childhood is tumbling ever more quickly into the teen years and eventually young adulthood. His playful years are passing us by and soon will be gone. What will I do today to value his play? How will I help him to carry his playfulness and imagination into the next phase of life?
Play is a powerful tool. It is the playful mind that ultimately is successful, seeing beyond the limits, barriers and boundaries of our cultural norms. To have a playful mind is to be nimble, quick, witty and wise all at once. Being a playful parent in the face of a serious world is the first step to raising a truly inspired child. A playful and inspired child is the one who will be solving the problems of our society that we don’t even know exist yet. This is the kind of citizen we will need in the future. Our ultimate measure of success as parents is whether our children are prepared to meet the future. So I challenge you to sit back, relax, and find the playful child within you.
Megan Rosker is a mother of four children, wife, teacher, writer and play advocate. She resides in Sedona, AZ and teaches second grade at a Waldorf Charter School. Her passion is raising her children and she loves sharing what she learns through parenting, teaching and being a wife with readers on her blog Let Children Play. She is a recipient of a Daily Point of Light Award for her work in play advocacy, writes for the Huffington Post and her work has been featured in the New York Times.