Sometimes our lives get overly scheduled and we forget to relax and play together as family. Yes, you should still be playing with your children in the preteen and teen years! There are a hundred good reasons to play together! And summer is a great time of year to add some additional playtime into your family life. Here are five benefits of play, four tips for family play, and three play ideas for families with preteens and teens.
Why play? Because play is fun, develops creativity, helps people release stress and process feelings, strengthens relationships, and provides opportunities for practicing:
Four Tips for Family Play
1. Make time for lighthearted activity. Put it on the calendar if you need to. Make it a priority.
2. Include all family members; adjust the play to allow for varying levels of ability. But don’t dumb it down! Make sure your play/lighthearted activities work for your teen. Preteens and teens are easy to lose so make their engagement a priority. To accommodate a younger child, pair the younger one up with an older sibling or parent.
3. Engage the imagination of your preteen/teen and allow that older child to steer the play (without taking it over completely).
4. Keep it lighthearted. Focus on having fun and cooperation, minimize competition.
Three Ideas for a Family with Preteens and Teens
1. Turn routine tasks into play
a. Put jokes, riddles, comics, or other lighthearted messages in family member’s lunch, backpack, workbag, or pocket.
b. Make up stories about the people you see driving around. Where are they going? What is going on in that person’s life that makes them look happy or sad that day?
2. Play games: card games, board games, or word games. You can check out game stores or toy stores for new games to try. Hold a family game night once a month.
3. Take a plastic figurine of a character and hide the figure in funny places for family members to find. Whoever finds it gets to hide it next. We have been playing this in our household for year. Our family uses a bendable Gumby figure. Gumby shows up in cereal boxes, coffee mugs, plants, sock drawers, you name it!
The teen years can be challenging. By making play a regular part of your family life you will build and maintain connections that you may lean on heavily during the inevitable parent-child relationship challenges. In addition, you will create lasting memories, blow off steam, and hone your teen’s flexibility and creativity. Carve out time for family play; have some fun together with those you love!
Families who play together have an easier time staying together!