Updated: Apr 9, 2019
Definition of to play: (verb) to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
After a long day at school, children need to get outside and play. Remember running around like a crazy dog at the beach when you were a child? Remember riding bikes around the neighborhood with wild abandon? I do! That was when my imagination did it's best work. Usually I could be found digging in the dirt to connect with Mother Nature - I needed that as a child. In fact, I still need it today. I live in the mountains near the beach, so often you will find me outside gardening, hiking in nature or squishing my toes in the sand to ground myself. (If I had a swing to play on, trust me - I would be out there now instead of writing this article.) What do you recall doing after school? How did your body feel after letting go of the stress of school? What do you do as an adult that grounds you? Centers you? Helps you reboot? Makes you laugh? Creates space for you to carry on with what must be done in a day?
We work and we are overwhelmed and we often need to pack our days with activities to keep kids busy while we are gone. (Yes. This is our reality. No judgment. Guilty as charged.) Over-scheduling our kids with activities, sports, and play dates can become detrimental to their brain function and their attitudes; thus making it difficult to engage in homework, study and evening family commitments. It is important to remember just how special down-time (or may I suggest, "up-time"?) can be. Our imaginations run wild, our bodies are renewed with energy and our brains are recharged and ready for what's next. I am not suggesting you quit your job so you can be at home after school. Heavens, no - I mean, unless you want to... I am asking what's possible for your family to connect and contribute to one another. What would it take to allow your children a half hour (or 10 minutes) of play before homework? What does it look like to be silly with your kids for just a few moments to laugh off the exhaustion of the day?
When I was teaching in the classroom, I sensed when kids were D.O.N.E. after a particularly long day. Instead of pushing them, yelling at them or bribing them, I stepped into the energy and asked what could we do to change our mood? The usual answer was "let's play something!". The kids loved my Mystery Minutes. We would pull a suggestion out of the jar to see what fun we could have for even just ONE minute. It always took 5-10 minutes, but those minutes led to that extra hour of productive learning at the end of a long day. (Shameless plug: contact me to learn more about this with my Empowering Kids program.) What I am saying is even if you are toast by day's end, a few minutes of fun can re-set your family's attitude and make the remainder of the evening worthwhile. So, I am asking you - what fun can you create after school today that would recharge, renew and reinvent your family evenings right away?