Families are the busiest they’ve ever been. According to a Pew Research Center report, nearly half of all two-parent families have two partners who work full time, a sharp increase from previous decades. With schedules often bursting at the seams between work, school, appointments, and extracurricular activities, it’s no surprise that more than half of all working parents say this balancing act is difficult. And all work and no fun makes for some dull parenting.
If you never quite know what to do with stuffed animals, or you feel like every stack of construction paper is just another project, all is not lost. You can connect with your kids and find fun doing it. It just takes a little time, and maybe not doing arts and crafts if that stresses you out.
I’m a businesswoman, a wife, and a mom of two boys, and time is at a premium for me. It can feel nearly impossible to fit in frequent, uninterrupted family time, so I've learned to embrace making the most of the time we do have together. It's the best I can do, and it’s been proven that there’s no better way to bond than through play.
Plato himself said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
Play is magical. It really is, and at any age. It’s true that children use play as their primary and most productive mode of learning, growth, and understanding of how the world works — and adults don't exactly have that luxury. But cutting loose is still vital for us, if in different ways. For example, playfulness increases creativity, problem solving, memory, ingenuity and invention, all while enhancing social, emotional and communication skills. Plus, it makes us happier and healthier human beings. Whatever age or stage we are at in life, it’s important that we make time to feed our very hungry, playful spirits – both individually and as a family.
How do you do this along with every other to-do on your list, you might ask? First, I encourage you to discover the things that fully awaken each person’s playful spirit and your family as a whole. Maybe this is an impromptu kitchen dance party while you're all scarfing muffins before work and school. Perhaps it's rolling down a hill you spot nearby while on a family outing. There is fun out there that even you, the busiest person you know, can fit into your day.
Find the playfulness lurking just below the surface of your over-busy lives. One simple way to do that is to pay a visit back to your own childhood. In my book, Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family's Playful Spirit, I provide grownup readers with a meditation and worksheet to help them re-discover the things that sparked the most playfulness within themselves when they were kids. If you have children, you’re ahead of the game — let them do the work of coming up with ideas. Do they like puzzles? What if you turn out the lights and try doing it together in the dark? Blow some bubbles. Honestly, they can be fun.
The trick is family playtime needs to be intentional. By leaving a chunk of time on your agenda — even if it’s just 30 minutes — for some immovable, uninterrupted family bonding, you’re sure to discover a ton of pre-existing opportunities to add a touch of fun. If you want a literal how-to in order to accomplish this, check out my 100% Family Time Playlist.
There's no such thing as doing it right, and perfection is not the aim. Play — and playing together — lets us hit pause, unplug from the un-fun parts of life and connect with the part (rather, the people) we love. We are much happier humans and tap into the best parts of ourselves when we can step away from the “busy” for a few moments and allow our inner 8-year-olds to bust out.
There may be bickering or a groan (or two) when devices are shut down and everyone resumes eye contact again. But after the initial shock wears off, you'll be able to loosen up and enjoy being goofballs together. You can have your phone back if something kooky enough happens that you've absolutely got to get the 'gram — and you know what? It probably will.