Cultivating Playfulness in the New Year
As 2019 comes to an end, I have been reflecting on what resonates with me as a guiding word, or intention for the new year (and new decade!) I love words as mantras, because they can be so simple, yet such a powerful reminder, a reset, something we have the ability to access whenever we need. I started thinking about what word I want to embody in 2020, and what came to me was playfulness. In the last few weeks, I have really started thinking more about how to cultivate playfulness in the new year.
When it comes to being a parent, it can sometimes feel challenging to be playful, yet we have the very best teachers in this right in front of us. Our children. By tuning in and letting our children guide us, we can cultivate an attitude of playfulness that will serve us well in being present and having a profound impact on our children.
Thoughts on cultivating playfulness:
If you have a baby, let’s talk about these first experiences of play. Playfulness starts from a young age. Can babies play? Certainly! Babies are hard wired for connection and play, and parents can help facilitate this. After attending a two-day training in helping babies enjoy tummy time, I have a newfound appreciation for playing with babies on their tummy. Every parent is told how important tummy time is for a baby. The challenge is, most babies don’t enjoy tummy time because most often parents are putting their baby on a their tummy and babies are doing tummy time alone. Tummy time should be a time of play, and connection between a baby and their parent. I love the TummyTime Method! because it fosters connection and relationship in this therapeutic playtime with babies. TummyTime Method! helps empower and equip parents with tools to help their babies grow and develop through play, connection, interaction, and whole body movements for baby! Babies naturally demonstrate a wide variety of movements and specific neurodevelopmental skills in the pre-crawling period, and the TummyTime Method! explores ways to support a baby as they explore their world. If your baby “hates” tummy time, check out the TummyTime Method! for ways to make this important developmental time on a baby’s tummy more playful.
Laugh with a friend. Parenthood can feel isolating at times, and sometimes the presence of others going through similar experiences as you can feel like a weight off your shoulders. If you are a new mom, looking for a place to connect, unwind, share some laughter, tears, and coffee, the Mothers’ Milk Bank Baby Café at the JCC is the place for you! The Mothers’ Milk Bank Baby Cafe at the JCC is open every Wednesday from 10-11, followed by the Fourth Trimester Cafe. Having a place to go to get out of the house every week, and share the highlights and challenges of motherhood is so good for the new mama soul! The value of connecting in person with a group of people going through a similar life stage is that sense of the village in modern day parenthood. This group is open to everyone, regardless of how you feed your baby! Motherhood is challenging enough as it is without any additional pressure or stress, and Mothers’ Milk Bank Baby Cafe is a place where new parents can come and take a load off, in a judgement free space to get support around however they choose to feed their baby. Lactation is a natural biological process, but breastfeeding is a relationship, and learned skill, and the early weeks/months can be especially challenging. If it feels like there is no joy or playfulness in it, the Mothers’ Milk Bank Baby Cafe group at the JCC can help! There are also some amazing events with Mazel Together, story times at the library, etc. If you feel lost in ways to connect with other parents, and are looking for a group, feel free to reach out and I am happy to work on connecting you to a group that fits!
While on the topic of laughter and connection, I feel like sometimes it can be easier to laugh and connect with other adults, and at times it can feel more challenging to do this with our children. This partially depends on an individual’s personality, but I encourage you to reflect on the ease in which you find you are able to laugh with your kids. If you find it challenging, is it because your are preoccupied with a heavy mental load? Is it is possible to carve out a few minutes each day with the intention of relaxing and being silly with your kids? Perhaps imaginary play is hard for you, or you find it boring? (Trust me, I have had all of these feelings myself!) Because of this, I started to really think about how to make the most out of my time playing with my kids. This time spent together each day can go such a long way in forming a strong relationship as a family. Now that my kids are a little bit older (2 and 4) I have found that board games are a great way for our family to connect and share some laughs. Here is a great list of games for the whole family! I also shifted my mindset when it came to being with my kids. Once I realized how much easier it was to get into playful mode when I put my cell phone away, took some deep breaths and let the other stresses of the day melt away, I found it so much easier to be in the present moment and really connect with my little guys. Play is one of the main ways children learn and develop and so I am going to try to be as playful as I can with them.
“Play is also a way to be close and, even more important, a way to reconnect after the closeness has been severed. Chimpanzees like to tickle one another’s palms, especially after they have had a fight. Thus, the second purpose of play serves our incredible – almost bottomless – need for attachment and affection and closeness.” ― Lawrence J. Cohen, Playful Parenting
Our children rely on us as parents to help them understand the world, and a large part of this is feeling safe and secure. When they feel connected, and safe, they have a much easier time exploring, learning, and engaging with the world around them. The most beautiful thing about this is that to help nurture this in our children, all they need is for us to be present, and engaged with them. Dr. Edward Tronick in the 1970’s recognized the importance of this and did an experiment to show the importance of a parent engaging with a child, and what happens when that parent stops engaging in play and connection.
We live in a time where we are SO connected, but are we always present in this connected time. Here are the videos of the experiment which highlights the importance of social connection and presence with a parent.
Do something fun, random, and don’t look back! For me this came about at my recent stop at the DMV. I was registering my car, and thought, “hey, why not do something silly I wouldn’t normally do?” When my number was called, I stepped up to the counter and asked, “what is the process for custom license plates?” My job brings me so much joy, and I wanted to bring a little playfulness into that as well! I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and so I had a little fun when choosing my license plates to reflect my passion for what I do, and bringing a little playfulness into the mix!
In 2020, it is my intention to take more deep breaths, try not to over analyze when it doesn’t serve me, be silly, laugh, be present and cultivate a more playful spirit. I would love to hear what words resonate with you in the new year!
“Opportunities to live more playfully present themselves all of the time, we just have to get better at recognizing them.” – Meredith Sinclair