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As school draws to a close and families start looking towards summer break, it is an excellent opportunity to set aside more time to play together. Play can be defined as an activity that is engaged in for pleasure rather than for a practical purpose. There are no expectations, deadlines, or reasons for play, other than enjoyment.

Allowing yourself to do nothing for a while without guilt because you are not doing chores or accomplishing something that you perceive as productive, can be difficult.

In today’s society, everything seems to need a reason.  When our days are filled with obligations that demand most of our time, it is easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed.  This pressure can affect the entire family leading to arguments and a breakdown in communication.

small moments children early specialistThe good news is that unstructured play can counteract stress and improve psychological resilience. Studies have shown that children who have the opportunity to engage in free play time are healthier and happier because they are able to cope with stress and adversity with a more positive attitude and optimistic outlook. 

Benefits of Unstructured Free Play

  • Builds trust and increases feelings of safety
  • Helps increase self-regulation
  • Strengthens conflict resolution and tolerance
  • Improves the ability to focus
  • Gives children a safe environment for processing big feelings or issues 
  • Encourages creativity and communication skills
  • Develops resilience

how to find joy early childhood specialistPlay is good resiliency practice, but for some adults the idea of play or unstructured time may seem difficult or uncomfortable because of the absence of clear boundaries. However, for kids it is the lack of facilitation that gives them the room to explore and relieve pressure. It is a sanctuary that gives them time away from their problems, and a relief valve for the mind.

This summer, challenge yourself and your family to develop a mindset of play.  Ask yourself, “How can we choose to do this with joy and playfulness?” Focus on shared joy, relaxation and togetherness. Give yourself permission to take something off your plate and step away for an opportunity to play, connect and be present with the people you love by laughing and enjoying social interaction.

Ideas for Family Play

  • Family or kid created games
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Movement (bike riding, sports, yoga, swimming)
  • Cooking together (develop the ultimate sundae, or use toothpicks with marshmallows or gumdrops to build robots and snowmen)
  • Art (painting, crafts, sidewalk chalk, photography, make puppets and put on a show)
  • Dance party (try an evening outdoor dance off with glow sticks and twinkle lights)
  • Backyard camping
  • Nature walks
  • Fruit Roll-Up Challenge (who can eat it the fastest with no hands)
  • Puzzles
  • Board games 
  • Building (legos, forts, create with recycled materials)
  • Daydreaming

Find pleasure in the mundane, build in time to play, and enjoy dreaming, laughing and playing together!