July 3, 2019

Playtime with your kids won’t only make your connection stronger, it can also relieve that summertime cabin fever. 

It’s summertime, which means sunshine, snoballs, and stress! With children being out of school, many parents may begin to feel overwhelmed or burnt out — and that stress isn’t one-sided. This vicious cycle of parent-child stress can be greatly alleviated by utilizing play and games that help improve mood and reconnects you with your children.

Playing with your child has many documented benefits, such as increasing the bond between child and parent, enhancing cooperation, and re-energizing you as a parent. When your child is processing big emotions, play and laughter help them release pent up energy and stress hormones that could be causing them to seem whiny, agitated, or clingy.

Playing with your child doesn’t need to be an all-day affair. Just a few minutes of dedicated playtime with your little one is all it takes. Set a timer for two or more minutes for playtime every day. Here are some ways to incorporate playtime into your summer routine:

Make it fun.

As Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” If your child is resisting getting dressed, set a timer and make it a speed game. Try to find a way to make mundane tasks fun and you will find that not only will your child enjoy them more, but you will too.

Hug it out.

If your child is acting very clingy, your initial reaction may be to set up an independent activity for them to give yourself some space. Instead, pull them in for a nice long hug. Make sure its at least five seconds long, but try to hug them until they let go. Tell them how much you love hugs from them and then thank them for the hug.

Get active.

If your child has a lot of energy, find a safe way for them to discharge it. Go outside to spin, hop, run, or roll for a designated number of seconds. Or take them on a walk, challenge them to a playful game of soccer, or chase them. 

When they are done with their physical exercise, give them a big hug and say, “That was a lot of fun! It's good to get some energy out, but it's also good to help our bodies calm down. Let’s take three deep breaths together to help relax our bodies.” 

Then show them how to take a deep breath in through their nose (smell the flowers) for three seconds, and exhale through their mouths (blow out the candles) for four seconds. The combination of letting them get their energy and wiggles out with you, and teaching them a deep breathing technique, should help them feel more at ease.

Get messy.

Bubbles, foam, slime, chalk, paint, paper mache, and many other forms of messy or creative play are wonderful ways to pass the time. Kids of all ages love messy play, also called sensory play, and you may find that they end up playing with these mediums independently.

A creative play, on the other hand, can be a great way to incorporate structure or an end goal. For example, you can build a model, trace your bodies in chalk, or make finger paint dinosaurs. Remember, play is supposed to be fun, so don’t make it too structured.

Whether you are simply trying to get the living room tidied up, or you are taking your kids to the park to blow off steam, find opportunities to play with your child this summer, and enjoy the decrease in stress and the increase in connectedness all summer long.


Elyse Shull, M.S., P.L.P.C., is a parent educator at The Parenting Center at Children's Hospital and is a contributor to the award-winning “Parenting Corner” column. She can be reached at 504.896.9591; chnola.org/parentingcenter.

                        

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