“It doesn’t hurt when I’m playing”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has just prescribed a minimum of and hour of play per day. But the power of play is something kids have always recognized.   

Last week, at a birthday party in the park, a friend’s 7-year old came running to show the bloody scrape on his knee. Mom bent down to take a look, and just as she was about to offer to clean it up and get him a Band-Aid, he straightened up.  “No, it’s ok,” he said.  “It doesn’t hurt when I’m playing. And with that bit of wisdom imparted, he ran back to the play structure! Now, in the case of the bloody knee, play was a temporary fix for sure. He undoubtedly limped pathetically to the car when it was finally time to go home. But the wisdom of this kid’s understanding of pain, play, and the brain stuck with me. 

What a superhero! Read on to find 3 more ways PLAY makes children superheroes...

“Can you carry me?” 
On Sunday, my four-year-old was exhausted WAY too early on our weekly walk to the coffee shop. When she asked me to pick her up after only a block, I realized what a miserable 2.5 miles was ahead of us.  Somehow, I remembered the little boy at the birthday party the day before, whose super power was being able to ignore a scraped knee, and I wondered what some dramatic play could do for my tired preschooler...

- “Whew! We’re in trouble. This is a really big mountain coming up,” I told her. “I’ve got my mountain climbing boots on, though.” 
- “I’ve got mine, too!” she joined in. “They’re pink and purple.” 
- “That’s good. Mine have spikes on the bottom so they stick in the ice. And I have my trusty ice pick.” 
- “Me too!  I’ve got two of them! Let’s go!”  

And she climbed the sidewalk with more speed and energy than I’d ever seen before, tossing a pick to her dad and offering to pull her brother up with rope.  And for the rest of the walk, any rise in the road led her to whip out those trusty ice picks. Play for the win!

“Mama, do it funny.”
It seems like getting children dressed for the day from ages 3-8 would be a simple thing.  But the truth of encouraging children to get dressed independently is probably my greatest parenting pet peeve. Suggest, request, remind, demand, warn, threaten, and still the child is in pajamas.  

What bothers me the most is probably the fact that it bothers me so much. We’ve sung songs, made posters of the morning and night time routines, given positive reinforcement, but still there are days when the children find just too many other interesting things to do before getting dressed.   

Last week, my little one reminded me of the best way to put some speed into the getting dressed routine without an increase in my blood pressure.  “Mama, do it funny!” she said.  

And we repeated our favorite getting dressed game. Handing her a pair of underwear, I asked her politely to please put her hat on.   

-“ It’s underwear!” she laughed.
- “I know what it is,” I replied, “Now please put it on your head!” 
- “Mom! Underwear goes on your bottom.” 
- “No, no, no. You put it on your head, like a good little girl.” 

 Meanwhile, she had sneakily put the underwear on correctly.  But did I praise her?  Oh no. This is ‘doing it funny.’ My job is to be very angry/disappointed/frustrated/annoyed/confused. I demonstrated the range of emotions, but gave up and tried again with a new article of clothing.

“Fine, if you insist. But these socks must go on your hands. Do you hear me?” 

 She moved quickly, defying my requests and putting on her clothing correctly at an impressive speed.  And we both wound up giggling. Play gave us the super power of getting out of the house on time without arguing.  

“What’s patient?”  
LEGOLAND knows what’s up when it comes to children’s attention spans.  Even if you don’t buy the fast pass or whatever they call it, the lines outside the popular attractions all have LEGO stations, so while parents wind around and wait, the kids are busy.  If only the post office, airport security, and every crowded family restaurant had the same thing.  

What are our options?

1) Spend the 15 minutes nagging: “Don’t touch that. Come here. Stay right beside me. Be careful with that. Be kind to your brother. Be patient.”  An exhausting solution for everyone.

2) Hand them a screen and count on several quiet minutes.  A good and sometimes necessary solution, this works until guilt about excessive screen time paired with the child’s inordinately grumpy post-screen time attitude override the benefits!

3) Load up our bags with ‘busy games’ to keep them entertained.  A brilliant solution, somehow this has never worked for me. I just can’t remember, or keep my purse organized enough.

Or... play pretend! Write pretend letters to Santa. Rescue pretend spiders, fairies, ladybugs, puppies, and squirrels. Take pretend orders and serve pretend food....

We play a lot of pretend while waiting in lines. We get a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing we’ve been connecting with each other, but most importantly, we pass the time. So, what’s your child’s play superpower?