I grew up in a family that was rarely accepted, always broke, and very different. Lucky for us our mom understood intuitively the power of play.
Our family had adopted this theme song. "Boom Boom, ain't it great to be--crazy?! Giddy and foolish all day long; Boom Boom, ain't it great to be--crazy?!" This was an important attitude. Not only because my four adopted brothers were autistic, or because mom herself had been transitionally diagnosed with all types of crazy, but also because it encouraged fun and freedom. All day long!
Also, it was an attitude that worked for us because my mom--Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD
--always put the purposeful
in our play. Sometimes she was sneaky about it, often it was obvious, but always it was there.
As the new year approaches I would like to remind families, especially those feeling stuck due to loss, extreme disabilities, or poverty, that purposeful play heals the body and encourages the brain to grow healthy. Also, it's fun and it's free!
An example of what I mean by purposeful play:
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"When I would play with Sarah," my mom explains, talking about a girl with Cerebral Palsy that she fashioned her book The WingMaker
after, "I would listen to her sounds for word approximations while we played. I would then pretend to be or do whatever I was guessing she had said. Eventually, she began to believe in her words and worked to make them clear. Knowing that I would act on her words was a great motivator." As Sarah was learning to speak through play, her body was also growing stronger. "I loved watching her push the spit tube away, insisting to be more and more herself! You see, we had played games where I gave her roles that encouraged her to practice arm strength and more. So, because it was such fun, and because we believed she could, she learned and got a little more independent."
Very often when families are struggling with extreme disabilities, poverty, or the loss of a loved one, they stop playing and just "do". Just teach, work, make rules, make charts--but this (when not coupled with age appropriate play or fun motivators) actually slows down success.
Admittedly, my mom has an amazing tool, neurofeedback--biofeedback for the brain--which is one of the reasons she is so successful with all of her clients. But it's also true that even with purposeful play alone, anyone can make huge changes and gain impressive skills.
For anyone wanting to incorporate purposeful play into their lives (and I encourage you to!) it's really quite simple. Look for motivators, pick skills or goals, and make sure you have lots of age appropriate fun going after them. Also be comfortable raising the bar and believing in success. Whether you are feeling stuck because of poverty, disabilities, a lack of support or connections, or for some unseen reason, starting the new year with this knowledge--that your brain is constantly growing and making new pathways, and that you can choose to make them healthy ones through play--can change the trajectory of your life.
Your body, your brain, and your happiness are all connected. And you can control which direction they grow.
Check out my mom's websites for more info on neurofeedback or play therapy:
As the mother of four wonderful teenage boys Tsara spends a lot of time figuring out who she is so she can teach her sons to do the same. She also hears herself holler, "Stop Eating!" an awful lot! As her boys get older, she gets louder while (more...)
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