It was only last night that the gray cloud settled in over my head and I suddenly became “Grump Mom.”
I’m fairly sure this is not a super power, and, for the most part, it’s something people avoid being around, especially my children. It sounds something like, “You’re hungry, hmph. Look in the fridge.”
The truth is I want connection, good conversation, someone else to want to cook dinner and to cook it, and for once to not worry about having enough money. I start to feel sorry for myself, feel lonely, and long for beach vacations where I have no responsibilities.
Fortunately, I know that when “Grump Mom” appears, it means I need more play time. It was at this point last night that I did the only thing I knew to do, and that was to grab a pillow off my bed and start a pillow fight. Although it only lasted a short time, it led to laughter and connection. Play shifted my frosty brain.
Current studies are showing us the importance of play in early childhood development. Play is children’s work. Play is children’s learning.
Without play, children lose opportunities for brain development, growth and deep connection that happens no other way.
As parents, it’s our job to promote learning through play and to give as many opportunities for our children to play with us and without us. That can mean playing in dish water while we’re washing dishes, making music out of Tupperware and pots, outside learning in the dirt, hikes, songs and dance. Really, play is endless.
The problem is at some point as adults we stop valuing play in our lives, and even worse, in our children’s lives, as we ream them for not cleaning their rooms or leaving dishes in the sink.
Often our doldrum and frustration is our need to leave our norm and our fears behind and go play with our family and our friends.
Contrary to what we think, being playful is vital for our health. It is essential self-care, promotes healthy brain development even in adults, and moves us into our right brain and creativity, building family connection and removing tensions.
And yes, play looks different at different ages, but it almost always means observing what our children like and joining them at their level. If your 3-year-old likes dinosaurs on the floor, step into their Jurassic kingdom.
If your teen prefers to isolate and listen to music, ask them to share with you some of their favorite songs and listen together.
Initiating play, whether throwing a ball, singing, pillow fights, scavenger hunts, or something else, often leads to connection and the removal of the “grump” (although be sensitive to your child’s needs and requests). Sometimes play simply looks like telling stories and laughing or bonding together.
And, if you as an adult, find yourself tired of your home and your children, it may mean you need some time away to play and rest at an adult level.
What kinds of play help you recharge and re-engage? Is it art, music, dinner, hiking, dancing, talking with friends or something else?
Choose the things that are healthy for your heart, soul, mind and body. We are never too young or too old to play.
For more family support, the Nurturing Parenting Program is free of charge and is starting two classes this September via Zoom.
One is for parents/caregivers of 6-12 year-old children, and the other is for parents/caregivers and their adolescents (12-18 yrs). Contact Sarah Green: email@example.com for more information.
Sarah Green is the family program coordinator for Chaffee County Family & Youth Initiatives (FYI).