When working with children and families as a counselor, family fun in therapy is important! Playful activities help families to explore and experience together for the purpose of connecting and better understanding one another. Facilitating fun experiences in the therapy room helps adults to get out of their left-brain and into the experiential nature of being in the moment through creative play based activities.
The goal of creative play based activities for families is to help children and their parents have an experience of exploring, expressing and experiencing together in ways that encourage a new path of connecting on a regular basis. So much of our time in today’s world is spent on our phones, computers and other electronic devices and this is disrupting our natural need to connect with one another.
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Stacy Jagger, LMFT, RPT has written a book based on a powerful intervention she developed which encourages families to turn off and put away all electronic devices over the course of 30 days in order to develop meaningful connections within the family and home. The book is called The 30 Day Blackout.When families are guided to put away the screens and connect, sometimes they need a child and family counselor to help them learn how to play, how to connect, how to be creative.
5 Family Fun Activities
- Make a family mural. The history of murals dates back to 30,000 BC when stories were recorded visually on the walls of caves. The power of story telling through murals on walls has carried on through urban art on the side of buildings and on the inside of schools. Using a big roll of 48″ white paper taped to the wall, a family can create a world of stories together and it can be an evolving project that represents what has been, what is and what could be in the future. When offered as an activity in the therapy room, you can offer markers and crayons so no drying is required and after session, roll up the mural and store until the next family session. Bring it back out and affix to the wall for the following family session inviting a connective, continuing process for the family in the therapy room. It is nothing short of miraculous what can show up in the family mural over the course of therapy together.
- Tinkering together. It is said that tinkering is thinking with our hands. Exploring with three dimensional objects such as marbles, cardboard tubes, tape, rubber bands and paper clips a family gets away from the virtual world of electronic games and screens and together get creative to explore and experiment with how items can be used together to create chain reactions or fun games. This article about tinkering has ideas for ways you can introduce these kinds of creative play based activities for families.
- Grow a family fairy garden. A miniature garden with little plants, tiny buildings and itsy bitsy items creates a little world in a container or in a family’s back yard where parents and children can build and grow and imagine stories. Tending to the garden imagining tiny magical creatures live there when we are not looking engages creativity and imagination and can be a fun and bonding experience. Here are some items you might add to a fairy garden.
- Bake a cake. Some of my own fondest bonding memories happened at the kitchen counter helping my mother with the process of baking cakes. Encouraging parents and children to come together with a simple recipe in the kitchen, gather ingredients and work together to bake a cake is a metaphor for the process of collaboration and process for creating something we really want in life. After the cake has cooled after baking, decorating the cake can be another layer of fun and creative collaborative expression. Of course eating the cake together and sharing with other family members is a big part of the fun!
- Go on a Nature scavenger hunt. Getting out into Nature as a family is one of the most powerful ways to connect with each other AND the natural world around us. Science is showing that children NEED time in Nature for healthy development. I love this article because it is LOADED with tips and ideas for how to create a nature scavenger hunt to add to your collection of creative play based activities for families.
These 5 suggested family fun activities barely scratch the surface of all the possibilities. As a child and family therapist, I believe it is a large part of my job to provide parents guidance and inspiration for how to shift away from so much screen time and engage with their children in ways that are creative and playful for the sake of health bonding and encouraging optimal mental, social and emotional development of children.