How to play as a single parent

I wrote, ‘Single parenting is the hardest, most emotionally challenging, fatigue inducing and energy sapping torture I know and I really do love my kids!’1 My feelings on being a single parent immortalised on paper and in an e-book for anyone to read. Nearly a decade later with an almost empty nest there are still moments as a single parent where I could say those words.

In spending time with single parents, I realise many of us have lost the ability to play as an adult. We are too busy running the household and making sure everyone is where they’re meant to be with what they’re meant to have. We are too busy caring for and nurturing our children, meeting their needs at the expense of our own. We are focused on controlling everything and have forgotten how to play.

As a single parent I feel guilty about playing. In my mind when I play, I’m ‘unproductive’. Playing is foreign to my sense of responsibility. It undermines my worth because I place value on myself based on what I do, not on who I am.

When did you last play? I mean really play? When did you stop thinking about your ‘to do’ list, your finances, your work, your worries and find pleasure in the moment doing something enjoyable?

Benefits of play as an adult

You need to play. Adults need to play. But we forget how to play.

Research is showing there are benefits to adults in rediscovering how to play. Play decreases stress and improves well-being. It improves brain function and creativity. If you think about children, they learn through play. It can improve your relational well-being as you cooperate and interact with others.1

Chris Kresser, a functional medicine practitioner says, ‘Play is not simply a frivolous luxury. Pleasure, play and social connection are all deeply nourishing and restorative on both a physical and an emotional level and can provide a powerful antidote to stress.’2 He says this is because pleasure increases the secretion of the chemicals called endorphins which react in the brain to decrease perception of pain, boost the immune system and create feelings of euphoria.3

The ‘Help Guide’ says, ‘Play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets and children is a sure and fun way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities and emotional well-being.’ 4

Play has no goals. You don’t focus on what you need to achieve from it or what the outcome is. You just get into the moment and play.

How to play

Play comes naturally to kids. As adults we need some help to do it. What’s a good blog without three steps to guide your practice?

  1. Discover or rediscover your favourite ways to play
  2. Make time to play
  3. Play

1. Discover or rediscover your favourite ways to play

Both articles in the resources have lots of ideas on how to play at work, how to play with your children and how to create opportunities to play.

Here some ideas to play with your kids that are free:

  • Board games (my now adult children still enjoy these)
  • Who can shoot the most hoops at the local basketball ring
  • Put a mattress on the floor and all watch DVDs whilst eating home-made popcorn (we still do this but use the couch!)
  • Take the dog for a walk and enjoy watching how the dog explores a neighbourhood
  • Join the kids in play at the local playground

Play can be a timeout activity for you, refueling you. You just have to remember how to do it! Think back to when you were younger and what you enjoyed doing then. What did you use to do that gave you pleasure? What activities did you lose all sense of time in?

Take a moment to write a list, then decide what on the list still stirs your soul and is something you can do now to play.


2. Make time to play

If you are like me and live a regimented life of schedules and to-do lists you will need to put time on your calendar to play or prioritise playing on your to-do list, otherwise you will see it as an interruption. For me, I will also need to work on my mindset to value me enough to give myself the gift of time to play, allowing myself to have fun, because I’m worth it.

3. Play

Do it. Stop reading this and go and play!

Putting legs on it

Complete steps 1 to 3 above.


Kresser Institute: The role of pleasure and play in stress management The benefits of play for adults 


  1. V Legge, New Life in the Mourning, Sid Harta, Melbourne, 2010 p.144-145.
  2. C Kresser, The role of pleasure and play in stress management, Kresser Institute for functional and evolutional medicine, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017,

And L Robinson, M Smith, J Segal and J Shubin, The benefits of play for adults,, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017,

  1. C Kresser, The role of pleasure and play in stress management, Kresser Institute for functional and evolutional medicine, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017,
  2. Ibid
  3. L Robinson, M Smith, J Segal and J Shubin, The benefits of play for adults,, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017,

Photo credit:

(balls)Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

(girls) Photo by Ariel Lustre on Unsplash



Rest and Restoration

It’s the holiday season and people talk about having R and R – rest and recreation.

R and R could also be rest and restoration.

What is rest?

For some the image of rest is taking a nap undisturbed or having time off work. But rest is bigger than that with many meanings and can be described as many things.

Rest is the ceasing of labour. It is having a break from work but it is more than not being at the office physically. It’s not allowing work to intrude into your home life either electronically or in your thought life. So resting may mean not checking emails and turning off your phone. It’s taking a break in your head, choosing not to ruminate on the thoughts of work or its worries when they occur.

I am taking an electronic time out from Friday 22nd December to Sunday 7th January. This includes checking emails, writing and editing, even reading other blogs and articles and completing online courses. Although the last two would be good for me, the danger is once I am on the computer I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from doing more. I have told many people this, including you, so I can be held accountable. Instead I will read, walk, cross stitch, jigsaw, catch up with people and importantly just be. This will be my way of having two weeks of rest and restoration.

There is a natural cycle of rest. You can see this in the seasons. So, you need to find a rhythm of rest, weekly, monthly and yearly.

Rest is stewardship; self-care so you can care for others.

What is restoration?

English dictionaries define restoration with lots of words beginning with ‘re’; renew, rebuild, re-establish, revival, restitution, renovate, reconstruct.1  It is returning (another re word) something ‘to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition.’2

R and R

Restoration begins with rest – you can see it in the English word structure. Rest means you are not in control. Rest lets the universe run itself. You cannot be restored when you are controlling everything.

As 2017 closes, take time to rest and be restored ready for 2018.

Take action (putting legs on it)

The difficulty with rest and restoration can be actually doing it. You need to take action. As a single parent this can be tricky. Here’s some ideas and I’d love to hear yours:

  • have a pyjama day – where no one has to get dressed, you eat only food that you can find in the house that doesn’t require much preparation and everyone just chills by doing their own thing
  • set aside an evening to play a board game as a family
  • have a play date where the kids can play and you can talk to another adult
  • find a way to switch off from work during the holidays – such as an electronic time out, if work thoughts intrude write them down to action them when you return to work and then turn your attention back to having a break
  • make some time to do something that you really enjoy like reading, journaling or a craft – you may need a DVD to distract the kids or find a baby-sitter if you can
  • take the kids for a walk and stop to look at flowers, trees, the colour of the sky and any interesting things you find on the journey
  • make sure you are getting enough sleep
  • take the kids out to a museum or a playground, it doesn’t have to be somewhere that you pay to visit
  • let yourself enjoy the moment


  1. accessed 21/7/16.
  2. Ibid

Photo credit: Kalen Emsley