Think Like a Child: How Playing Drastically Improves Your Creativity at Work
In these days of working from home, parents have to wear many hats. Not only do you have to keep up with your career or keep your business running, you’re also the math teacher, gym teacher, day care provider, cook, and dishwasher. The line between work life and home life has blurred beyond recognition.
We’re all running 1,000 miles a minute and if you’re feeling burned out, let yourself chill out. Take some deep breaths and realize you don’t have to do it all. Remind yourself:
- It’s okay to ask for help.
- It’s okay to take a break from work.
- It’s okay to be a parent first.
If you have young children at home, it can be especially hard to juggle everything. You know that your child wants and needs interaction throughout the day. But at the moment, playing with your child can feel like a chore.
There’s another way to frame playing with your child, though. Did you know parents who engage their children in child-directed play are more creative, less stressed, and less likely to feel burned out?
Luke Shankula, CEO of Paragon Digital Marketing and father of two, knows the struggle of balancing all too well. Although to the outside world, creating a seven-figure business in under two years is a huge accomplishment, it almost cost Luke his wife and his family:
The moment of realization came when my wife came to me and told me that I'm never around. And even when I was around, I wasn’t really present and was always thinking about my business.
Luckily for Luke, he caught himself and now offers advice to other overworked entrepreneurs on how to manage work and play in their lives.
Dedicating more time to play will also help balancing out the relationship with your partner at home. Experiencing these family bonding moments will help you create a unique sense of unity all around. So let's talk about how to make the most out of the time you spend playing with your child.
[Related: Finally, How to Be a Good Mom and Executive]
The benefits of play for your child.
Playing with your child involves letting your child set the pace and take the lead on exploring their environment together. You’ll want to see yourself in dialogue with your child, but try not to intervene or take control. As Luke says:
If you let them draw you in, you’ll be engaged and model for your child how to collaborate with their peers. And don’t forget to smile, laugh, and get them laughing.
The more you both enjoy this one-on-one time, the more you’ll both get out of spending time together.
For children, play is essential to learning. According to child psychologists, kids who play with their parents have an increase in neural connections, develop executive functioning skills, increase academic learning, build language skills, and increase imagination and creative skill development. Physically, play also helps kids learn motor skills, balance, and coordination.
Another aspect of play is social and emotional development. When kids play pretend, they learn to work through problems and communicate their feelings. This helps kids develop resilience and confidence. They’ll also be more likely to share what’s happening in their lives with their parents.
How playing boosts YOUR creativity.
As much as play is great for childhood development, there are just as many benefits for you. Playing pretend and taking a moment to “think like a kid again” is like giving your brain a mental massage.
1) Play increases mindfulness.
One of the keys to being creative is being present. In our work lives, it’s easy to get distracted. Have you ever sat down to send an email and found yourself 30 minutes later on LinkedIn having totally forgotten to send that email? It happens to all of us. But one way to avoid distraction is to train your brain to be mindful and focused.
Play actually increases your ability to be mindful. Speaking from experience, Luke says:
When you play with your child, you have to inhabit their world. You immerse yourself in being the dragon, building the fort, spinning around until you get dizzy and falling in a pile on the floor...or whatever it is.
Playing actually makes it nearly impossible to let your mind wander. So it’s a great way to train your brain for mindfulness.
2) Play floods your brain with positive chemicals.
When you connect with your child in this way, your brain gets flooded with oxytocin (connection), dopamine (pleasure), and serotonin (mood stabilizer). These happy hormones actually protect your brain against stress.
Fortifying your brain against stress is great in itself, but beyond that, as our stress levels decrease, the curious and creative parts of our brains can come online. So marinating your brain in this cocktail of joyful chemicals can make you more creative at work, which is essential for career success.
3) Play makes you more productive.
If you’re concerned about losing productivity because you’re taking time away from work to play with your kids, remember that any moment of playfulness can yield benefits. Instead of planning hours of playtime, look for the little moments to laugh together and be playful:
I love to make mealtime fun. I’ll turn my kids’ breakfast into a smiley face or get them involved in meal prep to give my wife a few quiet moments. We’ve got to eat, so it doesn’t feel like I’m stealing time from work.
Also, giving yourself time to play can actually boost your productivity. For example, just taking a little time out to be silly or goofy, especially when you’re feeling stressed, can change the way you look at a work problem, shake things loose, and give your problem-solving brain time to find a solution.
If playing with your child once felt like a luxury — something to do in between the hectic work schedule, soccer practices, dance recitals, and homework — take a moment now to appreciate the time you have to spend with them. And consider all the ways playing pretend can boost your creativity!
Victoria Kennedy, CEO of Victorious PR, has helps dozens of entrepreneurs become the #1 Authority in the niche and has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Yahoo Finance. Find out more here: victoriouspr.com/vsl.
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