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Let Them Have Fun

October 29, 2020 | by Dini Harris

Your kids' excitement is not part of a scheme to drive you crazy.

We arrived at the park in the afternoon and found its grassy areas submerged in water. A technical glitch had kept the sprinklers activated all day.

I told my children to stick to the dry playground equipment, but it didn't take more than ten minutes for one of them to jump in a puddle to see the splash and for another to try washing his hair.

Watching my kids start a mud bath triggered an instinctive reaction: Move away! Didn't I tell you not to touch the water!!

Luckily good sense overtook instinct. It was boiling hot (Israel is still in the midst of a heatwave) and the cool water was so much fun! My kids weren't jumping in the water to spite me. Being normal, healthy children, they couldn't quite overcome the lure of the sprinklers.

I quickly changed my policy: Right now Mommy does let you play in the water.

After hours of fun water fights we came home wet and muddy, ready for baths and with a load of wet laundry. And my kids are going to remember the fun they had for a very long time.

Fun is important. As adults, "having fun" reminds us that despite the real stresses and worries of a mature life, the world is a good place be. This realization helps decrease stress levels, increases productivity, boosts happiness and improves health.

Fun is even more important for children who use fun and play as a means of learning about their world, figuring out how things work, and how to problem-solve.

Parents don't always recognize the value of fun and play and sometimes even misconstrue these activities as insolence or disobedience. And because we feel affronted, we lash out instinctively with shrieks of, "You better stop that right now!" or "Move away from there!"

Once we put our feelings of insult aside, we're better able to understand why our children do what they do.

My toddler spilled out three bags of flour and two bags of sugar. He's not expressing anger at his mother who happens to me; he just likes the feel of flour and sugar underneath his feet. My five-year-old isn't hammering holes into the wall of the house because he's upset; he's just trying to fix the broken shelf. My son isn't climbing on the top of the slide instead of inside of it because he's a daredevil; he's just too young to appreciate the risks of a fall from that height.

Once we objectively evaluate the situation, we have an easier time regulating our reaction. Instead of being angry and irritated at our children's creative play, we can laugh, see how cute they are and then decide whether we should let them continue having fun or if there are reasons to stop them.

Their finger-painting is moving from the paper to the floor? Hmmm…. They're just having fun and enjoying a sensory experience. No need to get angry. They'll help me mop when they're done.

They're moving heavy bricks in order to create a campfire? Hmm…. They're having fun and learning to rely on their own minds to create and produce, but I'd better stop them before somebody drops a brick on his toe.

They're singing in the rain on the top of their lungs? It's warm outside; nobody is going to get sick. I'll get an umbrella and start singing too.

Recognizing that our children are just trying to have fun has loads of benefits for us as a family. After all, doesn't every parent want a happy home? When children don't have to second-guess everything they do because they're worried about their parents' reactions, they'll be more creative, more independent and much happier.

The positive benefits will spill over to us too. When we let our children have fun, we're apt to let ourselves be drawn into the play. Why not jump into the sprinklers ourselves? And even if we don't join them, we laugh with them and take pictures of them. We enjoy their play and increase our own level of positivity and happiness.

Photo credit: Cao Lanh, Unsplash

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