By the time you’re the mom of a toddler, you’ve probably been an adult for a minute. Right? I mean, you’ve kind of got a handle on how things work. Systems. Routines. Coffee. Dry shampoo. And the fact is that it can be a challenge to retain your own childlike wonder when you’re doing literally all the things.
Well, folks, get ready. Because I’m about to share a #lifehack that’s gonna blow your exhausted mom mind.
Playing with your kids – actually PLAYING with them – can bring back the imagination you might have thought you’d lost.
And here’s what’s really wild: playing with your kid is not only great for bonding, it also helps you get better at adulting.
Walk with me.
Seriously, Rain, GO AWAY
I freely admit that hearing a forecast of rain for the second or third or sixth day in a row is not something I relish. Like most families with preschoolers, some “run around outside” time every day is essential for the sanity of everyone in this house. And there have been times when rainy weather meant a little bit too much time in front of screens.
So on our most recent “inside” day, I decided I didn’t want to deal with the guilt hangover that comes with too much screen time. Even though I was distracted with shoulds (dishes, email, figuring out how dinner was going to happen) I decided to plop down on the floor – I love you, yoga pants – and let my daughter lead the day.
My Kinda Camping
She decided she wanted to go “camping” so we got out the Fisher-Price® S’more Fun Campfire. Whether you’re an outdoors-y family or not, the appeal of this kind of pretend play is undeniable. As we sat on the mat around the “campfire” (a soft stuffed log with crinkly fire that is honestly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen) I let my daughter be Head Camper and followed her exact instructions on how to make s’mores. As someone who grew up on hard plastic toys, there is something absolutely irresistible about soft fabric marshmallows and real wooden sticks. I couldn’t stop touching them.
After s’mores, time flew as we sang campfire songs, pretended to catch fireflies and looked up at the “stars.” At one point, she told me to close my eyes for a second. When I opened them, she had transformed into a ferocious bear.
So many of us make appointments with ourselves to meditate; to get out of our heads and de-stress. You know what gets you out of your head? Pretending you’re running through the woods, fleeing a ferocious bear — when the woods are your laundry piles and the bear is your sweet child living her best life with bear claw mittens on.
Role Play? More Like Soul Play
Everyone knows toddlers and preschoolers love to emulate what they see and experience in their everyday lives. The good and the not so good. (We’ve all had to pretend to be shocked when our kid screams out a, um, “potty word”, right?)
When we give them the tools for creative role play, kids find ways to work through things that may feel daunting to them. For example, a kid who gets anxious going to the doctor can work on ways to self-soothe by pretending to be the doctor talking gently to her patient.
Creative role play also helps kids see the value in what it takes to make their home feel like home. Pretend tidying up may lead to your kid begging to help you clean the kitchen or clear out the garage. Bonus!
But what we forget is that play is good for everyone. It’s just as important for us to emulate them. Play is liberating. Seriously!
Surrendering to your kid’s imagination, really getting into it, gives you a feeling of possibility and creativity that 1,000 Instagram quotes could never inspire. When you’re so used to getting things done, following a to-do list, it feels amazing to simply play together.
In the process, you might mess around and find out that as good as you are at “handling” life, you’re still capable of creativity, imagination, and plain old silliness.
That’s a role worth playing.
Pretend Play, a new line of pretend toys from Fisher-Price®, encourages children to explore the wonder of their imaginations with toys that mix wood, plastic, and soft materials. Find out more about Pretend Play here.