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Find the fun: 3 simple ways to put play back in your family time

As parents, we set the tone of our homes. Let's be more fun.

This April, we're exploring ways to get more joy in our lives with our resident Fun Expert, Meredith Sinclair, the author of "Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family's Playful Spirit." Check back every week for updates here and follow the fun on our Instagram as well.

According to The American Journal of Play, childhood playtime has significantly decreased over the last ten years. Less recess, fewer backyard shenanigans, less “free” play — ya know, the kind not completely directed by adults, over-scheduled on the family calendar, and managed by coaches?

Turns out this lack of child-led, happiness-producing playtime can also affect our kids’ social and emotional development, leading to a rise in anxiety, depression, and issues with problem solving and self-control. Yikes.

As parents, we set the tone of our homes. Homework, practice, chores and routines are important. But so are healthy doses of unADULTerated fun. Along with providing your kids with around 60 minutes of wide-open, self-directed playtime per day (try for half of that without a screen in front of their face), it’s also really good for everyone in the family to figure out ways to pop a bit of frivolity into our lives.

Fun matters. Also, that fourth load of laundry or pile of work you brought home from the office can wait 30 minutes; I promise it won’t run away.

Simple ways to instantly awaken your family’s playful spirit:

1. Create a family 'playlist' and slap it on the fridge.

I’m a maker of lists: grocery, Target runs, hopes, dreams, dinners and “to-do’s.”

Lists help us remember the important stuff of life. And we’ve established that fun is important, haven’t we? Have your kids help you make a list of some of the unabashed fun you all want to have in the coming month, letting everyone contribute their ideas. Then see how many you can mark off by month’s end!

Meredith Sinclair
Meredith Sinclair goofs around with her teenage son Truman.meredithplays/Instagram

2. Leave space for spontaneity!

Sometimes fun needs to be given a little room of its own.

Try to leave space on your jam-packed family calendar for some immovable, uninterrupted fun and games — a big blank spot for the spontaneous to show up, sans screens. Don’t be scared. There may be a bout of bickering or a huff or puff (or 10) when devices are shut down and everyone is asked to resume actual eye contact. But the moment y'all are playing and laughing and being total goof-balls together, I promise you’ll have more fun than you would be scrolling on Instagram.

3. Teach your kids some old-school shenanigans.

When was the last time you played Kick the Can, Ghost in the Graveyard, or Mother May I? And do your kids have any clue what these gems are? There ain’t no school like the old school. We all have a few precious games or activities from our own childhood that take us right back to the school playground or some wide-open field. Take some time to educate your offspring on the games of your glory days and your long-lost 8-year-old self. I bet you forgot how much fun she is.

Follow us on Instagram for more joy-reclaiming tips from Meredith, and tell us: How do YOU find the fun in life?