This fall, you’ve been managing online school, working and running the house, and if you’re like most of us, you could use a break!
Perhaps you were in school plays when you were a child or performed in a church or synagogue pageant of some kind. Or maybe you hated to speak in front of the class and still feel uncomfortable sharing in meetings. Wherever you fall on the “performing” scale, finding ways to inject some humor into your home and family life can be a godsend.
For the past 17 years, I’ve had the wonderful experience of laughing with students in the Alexandria, Virginia area. And while some parents have shared anecdotes about being young actors, the majority have sent their children to me to help channel their creativity or help their self-expression skills grow because the parents aren’t sure where to start.
If you’d like to “play” more as a family, here are some ideas for activities you can do at home. But before you jump in, please decide that you’ll try not to correct your children’s ideas. Let them be fanciful and feel like they can express themselves without judgement. This can be very challenging as a parent, but I hope you’ll try it. And don’t be hard on yourself – just jump in!
Let’s Pretend is a movement activity. Start by simply walking across the room pretending to be really old, then try to pretend you’re a baby. After that, move onto feelings: you feel afraid, excited, hot, cold and so on. Take your time. Children love to suggest different ideas, so keep going until they’ve run out of ideas to demonstrate. This activity helps children recognize different feelings and boosts their confidence.
Next level: Pretend that your floor isn’t your floor anymore. Adjust the pace and way you move across the floor to match whatever environment you’re moving through. Start out imagining something like your floor is covered with ice – slip/slide or skate across. Then switch the floor to lava – maybe you’ll have to throw an imaginary rope to help pull someone to safety! The floor could be covered in gum that’s been chewed. How does that change the way you move? Quicksand, hopping across river rocks and walking on the moon are all fun. Ask for suggestions from family members until everyone runs out of ideas.
Next, change your whole room – pretend it’s filled up with water. Time to swim across. What if it’s filled with vines like a rainforest? Swing from vine to vine across the room. Imagine it’s filled with chocolate pudding, or Jell-O! Get ideas from each participant. It’s a good idea to finish this activity with pretending the room is filled with something fluffy and soft, like clouds, to help slow everyone down after the excitement.
Imagine If is another movement activity. You can either start out as humans (imagine if you were kings and queens, how would you move?), and then add in things like firefighters, ninjas and so on. Or you could go straight to animals if that’s more appealing to your children. Hop, soar, crawl, slither, splash, trot and prowl around your room, depending on which animal you are imitating. Sound effects are welcome here, too! Keep going until you run out of animals. **Note: this can be a great way to get children to come out of the car, get into the car, etc. Who cares what the neighbors think?
Circle Stories are a great creative thinking activity for when you’re sitting in the car or at the dining room table. The goal is for participants to create a brand-new story together, so no characters from movies, video games or even other stories. Everyone needs to listen to each other’s ideas, and keep the story growing as it goes around the circle, with each person adding more details. I usually say no violence, killings, bombings, etc., because that would end the story and you want it to grow. Also, no judgment nor negative comments about someone else’s ideas. Depending on the number of participants, we typically go around the “circle” two to three times before it ends. An adult should start the first story to demonstrate that the sky’s the limit! “Deep in a dark forest, a beam of moonlight was shining through the branches. Down on a path, there was a unicorn! It looked around and said … (next person adds on to the story, and so on). Start your stories in unusual places like under the sea or out in the desert. Add unique details like “it started to rain, but not ordinary rain. Purple sparkling glitter was falling from the sky!” Have fun being creative, visualizing what your children are saying and encouraging them to share their ideas.
Hopefully, these activities will bring some laughter into your home and help to expand your children’s imagination. Acting classes incorporate creative movement to build the body-mind connection and help develop spatial awareness, as well as self-expression, so please consider letting your children try an acting class. Being in a skit or acting is a wonderful way to experience a sense of teamwork and collaboration, even in online classes.