Published in Indy’s Child Newsletter
Last year, the LEGO Foundation released its “Play Well Report”, a survey of over 12,000 adults and children exploring the link between happiness and time spent playing together as a family. The results revealed a strong link between the number of hours a family spends playing together and an overall sense of family happiness. For children, play is essential to healthy physical and emotional development. It teaches them how to interact with others, how to think critically, and problem solve effectively. Play offers them an opportunity to establish their sense of self, expand their imaginations and foster creativity, as well as learn to cope with difficult emotions in situations they can control. For adults, play helps to relieve stress, stimulate creativity, and improve cooperation, among other things. And, for families, play fundamental for good communication skills, teaching empathy and compassion, and building trust.
But we know this already, right? So why are we not playing more?
Time spent playing for kids has been declining steadily since the 1950’s, especially time spent playing outdoors. Researchers have even created labels for this trend, Play Deficit Disorder and Nature Deficit Disorder and have cited dire consequences such as increase in anxiety and depression among children. Decline in play for kids can most certainly be linked to the increase in scheduled activities, introduction of electronics and social media, as well as intensified focus on academic performance, to name just a few. And, the current hectic pace of our everyday lives as parents only furthers the issue.
But play is important! It is important for our children’s development, it is important for our own mental health, and most of all, it is important for the wellbeing and happiness of our family. So, let’s be intentional about finding more time to play with our children. Here are a few ideas to help:
Gamify Household Chores: We have to do this stuff anyway so why not make a game out of it. For example, which family member can be the first one to put away all their laundry. Or, allow each family member to pick and prepare a meal for everyone in a cooking show style.
Schedule Family Play Time: Our days are filled with numerous scheduled activities already, so why not schedule specific time for play. Easy ideas include Friday night fun night, spaghetti Sundays, whiffle ball Wednesdays, you get the idea.
Play Video Games with Your Children: Know any parents who seem to not be in a constant struggle to reduce their children’s screen time? Well, in the spirit of play, if you can’t beat them, join them, right? Find a game that the whole family can play together, there are actually collaborative video games out there. Or, ask your child to teach you how to play their favorite game.
Switch Your Phone to Silent: It is just that simple, put down your phone and see what happens. As our kids often remind us, something magical takes shape when we let fun materialize out of boredom.
Kate Fisch is a licensed psychotherapist and founder of Northside Mental Health. Kate’s clinical experience and area of expertise is in the field of eating disorder treatment and substance abuse treatment.