The Power of Play

I caught myself in a conversation with another parent the other day, talking about how terrible I am at make-believe. I know this is a common gripe among adults, because it certainly isn't the first time I've had the conversation. How did my over-imaginative young self turn into a distracted, "can't we just play Candyland?" adult? I preach the importance of imaginative play...and have invested significantly in bringing a place devoted to this type of play to life, and yet here I am. A boring grown-up (at least from a kid's perspective).


Ironically, the universe must have heard me, because the next day at Wild and Free my 5 year old asked me to go to Alaska with her.


Deep breaths, Michelle, we can do this.


So to Alaska we went. Backpacks full of camping food, binoculars, compasses, and flashlights. We wore life jackets and paddled our flat bottomed boat up the river to an island where we hiked until we found a suitable place for a fire-pit, then we roasted salmon over the open flames. After our campfire meal, we got back in the boat and paddled to the final destination - a teepee on a remote island in the forest. Reagan procured us some sleeping materials from the local trading post, as well as more food. We ran into bears who proceeded to try and take everything we had with us, but we held them off for a bit with some reinforcing of our teepee shelter. This went on for just about the 2 hour play session at Wild and Free, with a 15 minute break for tea (I was parched...playing is hard work!).

This was the first time in recent memory that I have engaged in play like this...and it was fun. I stopped thinking about the work I had to do and let my imagination run, just like I used to. Rather than being guided through the play by the kids, I was an active participant - helping to build the story rather than being told what to do or say.


I've got to tell you, it was one of the most mentally refreshing things I have done in a long time. You know that nagging feeling when you are trying to balance kids and work...like you aren't doing either thing very well? Gone. I had fully engaged with my kiddo and she was over the moon happy. My work, still there, but no worse for wear. My brain? Super happy to have been focused on just one thing. It was the kind of refresh I feel when I have the time to sit down and read a great book for an extended amount of time (remember that feeling? :) ).


So as a challenge for you - try and engage in some imaginative play with your kiddo. The catch is that you have to be present. That is what makes it fun for both you and your child. Rather than them telling you to "say this" and "do that"...you will find that as you engage, they stop bossing you around because YOU are helping to drive the story.


There is no doubt that the rucksack of adulthood wears us all down, but toss it aside for a half hour or so and see what happens. When we engage with each other, adults and kids alike, good things will happen.


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Wild and Free is open all through mud season - it is nice and quiet in town so come in and play with other local families who are looking for fun things to do while the weather shifts to spring/summer mode!

I will be closed on April 22nd for my second COVID vaccine (woohoo!!!) but hope to see you all soon!

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Stay Wild and Free,


Michelle





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