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How Play Boosts Sleep

When you hear “play” what comes to mind?

Babies with blocks, toddlers with cars, preschoolers with art easels and aprons?

This is totally play … yet not the only kind of play.

So What Do You Need To Know?!?!

#1. Yes, children should play, as much as they want to, every single day. Fact. (I can write a book on this topic … ok it’s in the works, but for this article, we’ll leave it here.)

#2. Parents need to play too. 

With their children? Sure, absolutely! What a great way to build connections, have shared time together, get close, learn about each other. Yes! Absolutely do this as much as you want to, each and every day. 

#3. Parents need to play too.

(“Erica, you just wrote this”). Yes, I know. However, we need to define “play” here in a way that is untraditional and ridiculously important.

See, playing is typically reserved for children. 

It is seen as something lighthearted and a way to spend their time. Often it is seen as something that can be used to pacify them while we do grown up chores and manage everyone’s life. 

However, speak to any experienced child care worker and you’ll quickly learn that “play” is VITAL to children’s development. 

  • Play is how children learn. 
  • Play is how children develop. 
  • Play is how children move from one stage to the next. 
  • Play is essential to healthy social emotional regulation and development. 
  • Play enhances every aspect, fine and gross motor development, visual tracking, muscle growth, flexibility, speed and agility, and on and on.

What is Play for adults?

Play is defined in a lot of different ways. If you listen to your favorite teacher, you’ll see the messages are there. 

  • Play can be doing something, simply because you want to.
  • Play can be exploring something new, simply because you want to.
  • Play can be: 
    • planning a trip 
    • painting 
    • making a song 
    • designing an event 
    • looking at a sunset 
    • playing in the dirt (sometimes known as gardening) 
    • picking up a child’s toy and learning how it works 
    • tidying (you see how happy Marie Kondo is when there is a mess)

Play is something you do, because it brings you joy, it brings freedom, it gives your analytical mind a rest, and allows your wonderfully creative right hemisphere a chance to run the show for a bit. 

So Why Don’t Adults Play More?

It is often seen as frivolous, a waste of time. Responsible people don’t play. They work hard. They make things happen. They have to work or end up living on the street with cats.

Yet, I would argue that the adults who don’t play, are the ones who are the least happy with their lives. 

(Time to play along! (see what I did there?))

Think about a time where you really just got a chance to relax and be creative, in the way that felt creative to you. Sometime where you just got lost in the activity, and didn’t even realize that time was passing.

  • What were you doing?
  • What did it feel like?
  • What kinds of thoughts were you having (if any)?
  • Is that the kind of feeling you are searching for?

For many adults, we must practice playing. 

It has long since fallen out of habit. 

And we sometimes forget how to do it. 

Or have too many other things we need to accomplish before we can give ourselves that chance to play. 

Yet, imagine if you did 15 minutes of play before starting to wash the dishes. 

What kind of mood would you be in? 

A better one compared to if you instead did the laundry, cleaned the kitchen table, and then went to do the dishes, right?

It is essential that adults bring more play into their lives, to boost creativity, lower stress, and honestly, simply enjoy the life that we are living. 

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Ummm, Erica, I thought this was about sleep??

Of course it is 🙂

How is your nighttime routine right now, when you are getting your child ready for bed?

Perhaps you have some things you do consistently, yet there is still some crying or resisting. So you try a few more things, get this, do that, read this, clean that. All in the attempts to help your child settle for the night. 

Great job!!

Yet, it doesn’t always go so smoothly right? There is frustration over needing to do another thing. Questioning why they won’t just fall asleep. Wondering why this is taking forever. Cursing all those people who gave you advice that isn’t working right now.

And that is ok.

  • What if right before the bedtime routine, you took a few minutes to engage in your creative play of choice? 
  • How would you enter the bedtime routine?
  • Would you approach the whole situation calmer? More relaxed? More open to managing the mood swings of an adorable little one, who really just wants to spend more time with you?
  • How would the creativity you sparked during your play actually enhance your creativity in managing bedtime resistance?

I’ll give you a hint … you are 1000 times more creative when you have activated your right hemisphere.

Plus, your body will be more relaxed, your voice tone will be more soothing, you won’t get as easily frustrated and agitated at the 10th request for something.

Plus, you are setting an incredible example for your child.

They are learning that calming your body down makes you happier. 

Doing something you love, helps you get to sleep easier. 

When my mom is calm, I can be calm. 

When my dad is smiling, I am smiling. 

Stressed out parents impact children.

Relaxed and creative parents impact children.

You get to choose which way to go. 

And, you get to do it by play, simply because you want to.

Now, with this all being said, some parents need permission to do something for themselves.

And if you are still struggling with the idea that you can play and impact bedtime, let’s chat.

This is what I do. 

I help parents activate their playfulness, so that bedtime can be smooth. 

When your brain is setting you up for success, you can develop healthy solutions for your entire family, so everyone can sleep. 

You can set up a no pressure strategy session here, anytime. 

(Although sooner is better so you can get to sleep sooner.)

Happy playing!

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