Recently a busy mother of four told me that she wants to play with her children more. However, she is so busy with all the other day to day tasks that she doesn’t know how to find her playful side and nurture it.
I can totally relate to her because there are so many tasks and responsibilities we have as adults and caregivers of our children, that we don’t have much time to play with our kids.
When we do, we struggle to be in the moment with our kids because there are so many other obligations swirling around in our mind.
This mother’s honest struggle made me stop and think. How do I find my playful side as an adult? How do I come down to the level of my kids and truly play and interact with them? Here are a few things I tried recently.
Revisit Your Childhood
“What? That’s impossible!” you say. My response is “Would you if you could?” I would guess half of you would jump at the chance and the other half would emphatically yell no.
It seems we either loved our childhood because we had a nurtured one with many fun memories or we didn’t like our first few years of life because there were too many stressful experiences.
What I am challenging you to do is return to a part of your childhood that was positive and fun. There has to be at least one experience that was playful. Go back in time in your mind to that experience. Where are you? What do you see? What do you smell? How do you feel? Who is with you? How old are you?
Recently my mind traveled back to when I went to Story Hour at the local library when I was preschool age. I vividly remembered the smell of all the books in the building and the feeling of awe I got when I got to watch a puppet show there.
Another memory that is vivid in my memory, is playing with my grandmother. She would play tea time with me and tell me wonderful stories. She was very active in interacting with her grandchildren and that made a great impact on me.
Traveling back in your mind to your youthful years triggers memories of play. These memories will help you remember the joy you had playing as a child. The memories will help you find your playful side because you will distinctly feel again what it was like to be a care free, playful child.
To help you remember, write down each memory as you recall it. Revisit your documented memories when you are especially struggling to find the playful side needed to play and interact with your own kids.
Do What You Loved to Do as a Child
Another way to revisit your childhood and find your playful side is to do something you loved to do as a child.
Recently, I watched Mary Poppins Returns with my niece and nephew. The balloon scene at the end of the movie especially spoke to me.
The Balloon Lady asks grown up Michael to pick out a balloon for himself. He replies “Those days are long behind me. I don’t think I’ve held a balloon since I was a child.” The Balloon Lady quickly replies, “Have you forgotten what it’s like?” “To hold a balloon?” Michael asks. “No,” she says, “to be a child.”
Michael picks a balloon and immediately starts flying upward into the London sky holding onto the balloon. Before long children and adults of all ages join Michael up in the air.
Every person in the sky at that moment had found their playful side.
In the original Mary Poppins movie, young Michael and his sister Jane, fly a kite with their father. It was a very remarkable moment because their father had never taken the time to play with them before that.
More than likely grown up Michael was remembering that kite flying experience as he was flying high in the air with the balloon. It was something he loved to do as a child.
What did you love to do as a child? Play hopscotch? Swing? Ride your bike? Solve a jigsaw puzzle? Fly a kite? Play baseball?
If at all possible, do it again. I guarantee that it will make you feel like a child and you will discover your playful side once again.
Observe Your Children at Play
Another way to find your playful side is to observe your children (or any children for that matter) at play.
Yesterday, I spent time volunteering at my son’s preschool. During their free play time, I enjoyed watching each four year old at play.
It was interesting to see how they approached and interacted with all the toys at their disposal.
Most of the children were playing with at least one other child. Some of the children played on their own.
Almost all of them switched from different play areas quickly.
Each child played somewhat differently and in their own way, but they were all having fun.
Observing them, I found myself wanting to join in and so I sat down at the table where there was a banquet already spread. I asked one little girl if I could order some food and she brought me a “menu.”
I ordered fish and doughnuts and broccoli and any other play food I could see on the table before me. The kids had as much fun serving me “food” as I did “eating” it.
I can definitely say I found my playful side again as I interacted with those children in their make believe restaurant.
Make Time to Have Your Own Fun
This is the most important way to find and nurture your playful side, in my opinion. Go do an activity that you love to do!
If you love to do it, then I know you think it’s fun. If it is fun, then it is naturally going to nurture your playful side.
This summer, we spent a day at an amusement park. As a child and teenager, I loved roller coasters, so I was definitely revisiting my childhood.
But I was also doing something I love to do as an adult, too. That day of fun did a lot to relax me and help me find my playful side.
What do you like to do for fun? Even if it isn’t something most people would define as fun, if it brings out the playful side in you, then by all means make time for it!
Mary Poppins and the Balloon Lady had a brief conversation while watching everyone up in the air. The Balloon Lady said they would forget about their time in the air by the next day. Mary Poppins agreed and said that grownups always forget.
I think there is definitely truth to that. As an adult, it is easy to take life too seriously sometimes and it prevents us from viewing life with the enchantment of a child.
The next time you find yourself taking life a little too seriously, don’t forget how to find your playful side:
- Revisit your childhood
- Do what you loved to do as a child
- Observe and interact with children at play
- Take time to have your own fun
Let me know if any of these recommendations help you find and nurture that playful side in you that so often gets overlooked by all the responsibilities and obligations of life.
I would love to know if taking the time to do these things helps you have more fun and playtime with your children.
May you have many playful moments as a result of nurturing your playful side!