The Family that Plays Together
... Is Much Healthier!
by Linda Kondracki
Kids parents' group one night, a single mom reported, "I feel
so guilty today." When asked why, she said. "Life has been
so stressful for us lately, and we've all been on edge. So yesterday
morning, when we were all rushing around yelling at each other, I
finally said 'Stop everyone! You know what this family needs? A day at
the beach!' So we canceled everything we were supposed to do and spent
the day at the beach."
"Did it help?" I asked. "We had a wonderful time! It
was our best day since my husband left. But I can't stop thinking that
maybe I taught the kids that it's okay to flake out on their
responsibilities. We had a lot of things we were supposed to do
I assured this mom that she had made a great choice, and then noticed
many other parents seemed uncomfortable with my response. So we spent
the rest of the hour talking about the value of play to healthy family
life. The whole discussion reminded me that many adults have very
little ability to play, and even less understanding of how vitally
important play is to the overall health of their family's life!
Barriers to Play
Adults give many reasons why they are uncomfortable with
play. We hear statements like:
- "I never played much as a
child - and my parents never played with us kids."
- "I feel silly."
- "Playing is a waste of
- "I just don't have the time
- "Kids play -- adults work.
That's the way things are."
- "Life is so heavy right now,
I just don't feel playful."
Benefits of Play
Dolores Curran, in her book Traits of a Healthy Family,
lists the "enjoyment of shared leisure time" as an important
source of family health. Most importantly:
- Laughter and shared play
creates a strong bond with our children.
The best memories I have from my
childhood are the times the adults played with us kids. I remember
playing games around the table, swimming together at the lake, and
long conversations about what life was like for the adults when they
were kids - all filled with uproarious laughter! There was lots of
pain in my childhood, but the times of shared play gave me a sense
of renewal and closeness that I did not have in any other way.
- Play relieves tension and
gives us a break from the heaviness of life.
It is okay to take a rest from dealing
with our recovery and other stressful points of life. God has
created us to be renewed by play and laughter. Taking time to play
will give you renewed strength to keep going with the heavier issues
But I don't know how to play ...
If play is hard for you as an adult, you're not alone. In recovery, we
learn lots of new healthy living skills - many of them deeply painful
and difficult incorporate into our lives. Here's one that is fun! As
with any skill, start small and keep at it even if you feel ackward
and uncomfortable at first.
- If your kids are young,
Playing "Pat-A-Cake" with a
baby, or building blocks with a toddler are the first steps toward
bonding through play. The preschool years are a particularly rich
time, because it is through play that young kids learn about what
life is like in the world. Laughing and playing with adults gives
kids a sense of security and a belief that the world is a good
- If your kids are older, ask
them for input.
What would your kids like you to do
with them? Roller blade? Play a board game? Let them tell you what
they would like you do with them.
Play is often considered something we
do when we have nothing better to do with our time. Rather, make
play a priority in your family life. It can be planned ahead of
time, such as a vacation or an outing; or it can be spontaneous, as
our single mom who dropped everything to spend a day at the beach.
- Make play a part of your
Take time for friends who make you
laugh; go to Disneyland with all adults; enjoy a hot fudge sundae;
join a square dancing club. Find things that you can enjoy, and give
yourself a break to relax and have fun!
ACTIVITY: Plan for Family Play Time
Grab a calendar and sit down with your kids to plan a monthly family
fun time. Let each person in the family choose a favorite activity.
Here are some ideas to get you started thinking:
- Game night. Play board games
- Movie night. Can you find a few
extra dollars to spring for popcorn?
- Craft night. There are lots of
craft books in stores or the library. Holidays are great times
for making decorations or gifts.
- Go to the park. Play on the
playground, roller skate, invite another family and play
baseball or football.
- Go to local festivals. The
newspaper is full of local festivals and events, most of them
For more ideas, check your local bookstore for books on things to do
in your area with kids. These usually list area museums, tours, parks,
etc. that are free or low cost and chosen specifically for their
appeal to kids.
Go to more Articles
by Linda Kondracki in STEPS Magazine.
NOTE: Reproduction in any form
without the express written permission of the author is prohibited.