Have you forgotten how to play?

My kiddo: “Mom, will you play a game with us?”

Me: “No thanks, honey, I’m enjoying reading my book.”

My kiddo: “What are you reading?”

Me: “Oh, it’s this great book on the importance of play by Dr. Stuart Brown, I just love it. It’s all about how Play shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul.”

My kiddo: “You’d rather read about play, than play a game with us?”

Me: “Oh, all right, I’ll play a game with you.” (But inside my head, I’m thinking YES! At times, I would rather read about play, than play a game with my kids.  Is something wrong with me?)

Have I forgotten how to play?

Janine is one of those Moms schools couldn’t live without. PTA volunteer, scout leader, car-pool coordinator, and room Mom. Everyone counts on her and she takes a lot of pride in her involvement. But she gets resentful of other Moms who say “no”. Why is she doing all the work? Secretly, she’s jealous of those Moms who put themselves first, but she can’t seem to figure out how.

Don is a good provider and father of two young children, yet he constantly feels like isn’t doing enough. At work, he feels like he should be at home, at home, he feels he should be working. He’s burning the candle at both ends and burning himself out.

Many of my clients fill their calendars and to-do lists, but still feel like they are missing something. We are taught to focus on goals, hard work and productivity, but we aren’t taught about the importance of play. (Or perhaps we spent too much time playing patty-cake and trains, that we’ve forgotten what feels like play to US). Grown ups need to play in order to feel like all our hard work is worth something. It gives us a sense of well-being, connection, and shifts us into a more relaxed brain state (and who doesn’t need that?). But what feels like play to one person, may not to another. If you or your kids need a break from stress, check out these play personalities, from Dr. Stuart Brown’s brilliant book.

Storyteller – Imagination is the key to the kingdom of play. Reading, writing, movies, performances, dance, etc. Storytelling can be brought to any activity. (If your child loves stories, make sure to give them lots of quiet time to be inside their own heads.)

Director – Enjoys planning and executing scenes and events. Born organizers, they love the power of being in charge and creating an experience for others. Center of the social world. (Discovering my daughter’s bossiness was her way of playing helped me accept it and find appropriate outlets for it.)

Kinesthete – Move in order to think. Like to push their bodies and feel the results. (School desks are torture for these kids. These kids need trampolines, chin up bars, balancing boards and roller blades, especially if they are trying to learn something new.)

Joker – A joker’s play revolves around nonsense. Silly jokes, behavior, foolishness, practical jokes, class clown. (Which means these kids need an audience, thank goodness for YouTube.)

Creator/Artist – Joy is found in making things: something beautiful, something functional, and something goofy. Or just to make something work. Take something apart, fix it, clean it, put it back together, and make it new. (Gardening, organizing, decorating, woodworking, blogging, detailing a car, there are many outlets, if this is you or your kids, make sure you have a creative outlet or you’ll never feel completely alive.)

Explorer – Exploration is a way of remaining creative & evoking the imagination. Can be going to new places, searching for new feelings or meanings. Discovering something new by going deeper or researching and discovering something new. (Now I understand why I love life coaching and reading non-fiction, it’s how I play!)

Competitor – Playing to win a game with specific rules. Keeping score and fighting to be number 1. Games may be social or alone, observed or participated in. Competitors like to be known for being on the top. (Who can be the first one to eat their veggies and clean their plate?)

Collector – Wants to have and hold the most, the best, the most interesting collection of objects and experiences. This may be a solitary activity or the focus of intense social connection. (This can apply to multiple activities, you can travel to collect souvenirs, play soccer to collect trophies, or collect subscribers on your YouTube channel).

Can you identify the play personalities of everyone in your family? Remember, the things that feel like play are the things your kids will make a career out of later. What’s your favorite way to play?