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The Healthy Mind Platter by Aspen's In-Home Family Support: Part 5

It feels like the news, our social media feeds and even check-ins with friends and families have revolved around the negative, heavy and hard to hear stories of loss for the majority of the past two months. When we find ourselves inundated with bad news, it is important to take a break and do something fun!

It’s time for the 5th installment of our Healthy Mind Platter Blog series: It’s Play Time!

Among the types of loss being experienced in our communities right now, is the loss of control. We are told where we can and can’t go, who we can and can’t see and what additional roles we are meant to take on in our own homes. Finding a sense of control is key to maintaining our motivation to survive this new norm. One way we can do this is by choosing to put a little fun into our days. Whether this is a full day of playing hooky from work and school (shhh we won’t tell) or a ten minute dance break between conference calls and the seemingly endless snack preparations, these periods are just as important to our mental health as sleep and nutrition.

Dr. Dan Siegel emphasizes that when we playfully enjoy new experiences, we help make new connections in the brain. These new connections can help with social, emotional, physical and overall holistic development. We’re hoping that this concept can help with those parents and caregivers who are feeling pressured to become a homeschooling teacher extraordinaire in addition to all of the other titles they’re wearing right now. This pressure can lead the adults in the home to focus primarily on traditional academic learning. The good news here is that there’s tons of evidence that children learn naturally – and more deeply – through play. When we allow our children the time and space to play, as well as the opportunity to lead that play, we are helping them to develop important life skills such as imagination, creativity, scientific exploration and an understanding of cause and effect. These skills will all contribute to their academic success later in life.

Check out this article for some great and easy child led activities for those of you with babies and toddlers: https://www.cbc.ca/parents/play/view/five-open-ended-child-led-play-for-toddlers or scroll through @mamapapabubba and @busytoddlermoms on Instagram for some great sensory based play that you can do at home.

Beyond the wonderful effects play has on traditional learning, playing together as a family can strengthen relationships and work to ensure that both you feel bonded to your children and that they develop healthy, secure attachment. Spontaneously pausing your task to help build a tower, partake in a tea party, team up for a round of Mario Cart or being the enthusiastic audience of a talent show will increase engagement with your family by showing them that their interests and ideas are valued and worthwhile. Delighting together is a great way to remind us why we became parents and what some of the best parts of life are. Let’s face it, is there anything better than laughing so hard with the ones you love that you snort and hold your belly?!

Play can also be very regulating for children, parents and families as a whole. The power of resetting the stressful, negative energy in your house right now should not be undervalued. If you find the tension, crankiness, anxiety, outbursts – or whatever overwhelming feelings you find your household experiencing -take a deep break, think of something you enjoy doing and do it! It may seem counter-intuitive but playing can release tension, calm us and make us feel bonded to those we love. This is the type of control you can take in a time where so much control has been taken from us.

Here are a few ways to bring fun into your day:

But what about me? The adult? The parent? While we can definitely find joy in playing race cars for the 107th time this week… the 108th time might not be that fun! Be sure to take time to enjoy doing the things that are uniquely fun to you. Watching that show that you can’t watch with the kids around but you find extra hilarious, video chatting with high school friends you haven’t seen in forever, playing a game with your partner. You deserve to have fun too!

The best part about play is that it can and will look differently for each person and family. For some it may be spontaneous moments of enjoyment where you push aside your task and join in or initiate an activity of your own. For others, especially if you are finding that play does not come that naturally to you, play can be planned and intentional. Try scheduling in blocks of time with an agreed upon activity to make sure you don’t miss out on this essential section of your Healthy Mind Platter. What’s important here is to remember how good it feels to have fun and to show our families that we can -and should- allow ourselves to be silly, goofy, weird and wonderful!

All the best,

Your friendly, dedicated In-Home team!

We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.

— Charles Schaefer
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