Play often begins to dwindle in the middle school years, as children mature and take on more responsibilities in other things. However, play is one of the best ways to build resilience. Play encourages creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, and improves outlook. However, it also affects the health of a child. It can decrease negative thought, improve self-talk and image, and improve the immune system through healthy interactions and laughter. Therefore, as parents, we should encourage our middle schoolers to play. They should continue to engage in sports and other activities, but also need some time to just play games, take manageable risks, and be free of structures that inhibit creativity and exploration.
Here are some ideas to help encourage your middle schoolers to play.
- PLAY with them, and around them. Let your child see you having fun playing with your own friends, running, dancing, jumping, and acting goofy. Give them a model of play that allows them to give themselves permission to play as well.
- Listen to them. When your child starts to sound stressed, moody, or negative find a way to incorporate play into their schedule. This could be a spontaneous game of tag, game night, or a lego build challenge. Be creative and give your child an outlet to share his or her feelings and thoughts.
- Ask them to play a board game, video game, or go on a discovery/scavenger walk with you. You can find something that interests them and play with them. It will do your body and mind good too as you engage in the act of play too.
- Yolo- You only live once, so what would you like to do with your one life. Have your children ask this question of the family and explore the answers together. Talk about the what-ifs and share ideas about adventures you want to go on one day.
You can build resiliency and help manage stress through the art of playing. So, encourage you children to play no matter how old they get. Play therapy can be beneficial in many ways, and it is important to remember that even as adults we all need to PLAY!