- happier together through play!
Happy International Day of Happiness!
Yes indeed, it is the 20th March, it is 2019 and so it is the International Day of Happiness. This year the theme is Happier Together. It is all about celebrating what binds us together, our similarities and our sense of support and community.
Learning to find the fun
We at A Confident Start have been thinking about ways to bring families together. Play is one of the most important ways of learning. It gives opportunities to practice skills in fun and enjoyable ways, to identify strengths and interests, to explore and understand. And it is a much ignored art form!
Making time to play
As a parent I can really struggle with play. My children’s games can feel boring where I feel like a spare part, directed to sit and follow orders but not allowed to generate my own ideas. Play can feel frivolous and ‘childish’ especially when it is a distraction from the serious stuff of emptying the dishwasher, reading emails, sorting out the MOT or finishing reading an email for work. I really struggle to make myself stop whatever else I am doing to genuinely play with the kids.
Play to build relationships
But when it goes well, play can be a connection with my children. A time of joining with them to discover how high we can build a tower before it collapses, exactly how many pieces are missing from that jigsaw of the flags of the world (does that happen in your house?), and what ring-tailed lemurs might say if they could talk (quite a lot about jumping apparently).
So, in support of 'happier together' here’s our top tips for maximising the togetherness of play
1) Prioritise it – it is important to show your children you care about the way they understand the world by joining in
2) Give them your full attention – agree how long you have, even if it is only 10 minutes, and don’t be distracted! Put away the mobile phone, ignore the washing up and the work emails and really go for it.
3) Comment don’t question – It feels hard not to feel like you need to understand everything your child is doing, and throw in a few ‘learning opportunities’ at the same time – “What are you trying to build?” “What colour is that crayon?” “How many legs does that plastic cow have?” But don't do it! Step away from your inner teacher. Questions can pressure your child and stifle the evolving nature of their play, especially if they haven’t quite decided what they are building yet or don’t care how many legs the cow has. Try commenting instead “You are doing some great building there” “You’ve chosen a yellow crayon” “I can see that the cow is walking along."
4) Let them lead – even if it is boring! Letting your child take the lead in deciding what toys to play with shows them that you care what they are interested in and value their opinions. So if it is ‘babies and mummies’ for the 27th (or 2007th) time, try to grin and bear it!
5) Try whole family play time. It is OK for adults to play too. We can still learn and still have fun. The popularity of adult colouring books, crafternoons in the pub and adult sessions at trampoline parks is testament to how important it is for all of us to have fun and just play sometimes.
Ideas for whole family play time
With younger kids:
Put the lego in a big pile in the middle of the floor and all build together.
Get a big sheet of paper and try drawing a zoo layout together, everyone draws a habitat for their animal and then arrange the toy animals around. Draw their favourite foods and activities to keep them entertained.
Do chalk pictures on the pavement or your patio
Build a den, indoors or out
Hunt the thimble may be an oldie, but its a goldie too
With older kids:
Speed rounds - 1 minute to: a) make as many words as you can out of International Day of Happiness b) stack as many apples as you can c) build the highest tower using only flat sheets of paper d) model your dad in playdough etc.
Give us a clue - the drawing version (no writing allowed)
And if those don't appeal there's always a board game or a card game. Did someone say Mexican Trains? (NB: no-one knows why its Mexican but it's still our favourite).
Wishing you much fun and happier times together!
Love from A Confident Start x
AConfidentStart.com - psychology that works for your family.