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So many ways to play

Navigating Power Struggles
by Tia Fagan
workshop
31 March 2020
At Family5 we’re loving the messy ideas, the funny games and the imaginative builds. We’ve tried the baking, creating and exploring. We sing, we dance and we read. Thanks Alice for reminding us how to play.
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How to have fun AND comply with the restrictive demands of the Coronavirus

I was so discouraged by an article in the NYTimes with a pediatrician putting a stamp of approval on way more screen time right now. There is SO much more we can do! Saving screen use for when you are truly at the end of your rope keeps it where it needs to stay–minimal, balanced, managed.
Ideas for indoor play
  • Make an obstacle course with furniture, pillows, whatever you want, and challenge your kids to it. Or rather, set your kids off to make one for YOU! Or for each other. Hand over a timer for them to see how fast they can navigate it…or how slow…or by crawling or going backwards.
  • Bring that wading pool indoors–empty, of course–and then put a tub in the middle of it filled with whatever you like–water, sand, beans, dirt, snow. Add something to dig with or fill or wash and you have wonderful “messy” play contained in that wading pool.
  • Piles of cushions, add a few chairs, maybe a table and you have fort making material! A blanket or two, maybe a great big cardboard box or multiple small ones. So much play emerges from these! Forts are for hiding in, playing in, curling up with a pile of books within.
  • Pull out dress-up clothes! Remember those? Shoes, boots, hats, capes, aprons, dresses. Or maybe give them paper bags and tape and let them create their own, as our girls’ often did.
  • Strip your kids down (or not), let them use their tempera (washable!) paints in the bathtub. Our girls loved to stand in the tub and cover the tile and tub with all kinds of designs and colors…then all you have to do is turn on the water and presto! It all goes down the drain. Though if your kids are like mine, they’ll first fill the tub with water and watch it turn brown with all the colors mixed, languish a bit, then watch it swish down the drain. Showers follow! Oh the fun!
  • Make a pot of play-dough and add some butter knives, cut-up straws, toy animals. Or put a selection of ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, cereal bits, flour, old seasonings and water on a tray on the table and let them mix and create.
  • Set up the camping tent in the middle of the room. Add a few flashlights and sleeping bags and step back. Watch the play that emerges! Maybe the next day a saucepan, spoon and snacks are added for “cooking” over a “campfire.”
  • After the kids are asleep set up some of their toys in a unique or surprising place –we used to take all their plastic animals and make them parade somewhere unusual…and when our kids discovered them the next day, it triggered so much imaginative play!
  • Another tub of fun is to use shaving cream.
  • Include your children in whatever needs to get done–cooking, cleaning, laundry. Children often willingly want to mix, sort, scrub, “play” in the soapy dish water.
  • BOOKS! Read read read read read. MUSIC! Sing, dance, hop, jump, twirl. Audio books!!! Listen and delight together (or let them on their own).
  • Hand over pencil and paper and maybe a few envelopes and get the letter writing started. Or maybe just markers and scissors and glue. Take a shoe box and cut a slit in the top and declare it to be your mailbox–let your kids mail you wonderful little bits of things they make!
  • Pull out games. Board games, card games, marble games, jump-roping games, made up games.
  • Stuffed animals, dolls, puppets, a puppet show! Get the pretend doctor kit out (or let your kids create their own) and take care of sick stuffed guys.
  • Use that shoe box as the start of a play-kit–maybe make it a medical one or maybe one for creating something fun. Add glue, tape, popsicle sticks perhaps - whatever you’ve got that kids can create with. If you go with a medical theme, add band-aids, cotton balls, pretend medicine, whatever you can think of (or they think of). Theme up a box and let the exploration and fun unfold.
  • Bake, cook, create recipes. Set your kids up to make their own snacks and lunches so you don’t have to.
  • Lego, blocks, puzzles, duplos, dollhouses, dolls. Face painting! We loved setting up a mirror low enough for kids, giving them face-paint, and being oh-so-surprised with what they created on themselves!
And yes,
  • OUTDOORS. Go outside as much as possible, even if it just in your yard or around the block. The outdoors offers endless play–from watching clouds, to following critter footprints in the snow, to splashing in puddles, swinging, climbing, playing tag, building forts, sledding, taking a walk…use a real camera, hand over a magnifying glass, ride bikes…
There are so many things to do!
Everyone needs encouragement as we find ourselves more and more sequestered at or near home. Screen-time does not have to be the default, for (as many of you know) the more we use it, the harder our job gets. So let’s focus on healthy PLAY.
And remember…take time for YOU, in little bits if that’s all you can do. Breathe deeply. Enjoy your favorite hot drink. Stand extra long in a hot shower. Pause and just watch as your child is engrossed in play.
Here’s to all of you during this crazy time!
Respectfully and with JOY,
Alice Author and Parent Coach
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Need more ideas? Find inspiration for fun activities to enjoy together in the Family5 app.
About the author
Alice is a PCI certified parent coach and has 40 years' experience helping families to thrive. She has published two parenting books, with a third on the way. She is the mother of two grown-up daughters.
This post originally appeared in Just Ask Alice on 14 March 2020
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