The Pursuit of Play

Addie and Kylie found a turtle during a family play outing.
Addie and Kylie found a turtle during a family play outing.

According to the National Institute for Play, play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.

The Weeks family of Winter Garden is one of those families who embody the element of play in their family culture. High school sweethearts, Amy and Selby share a love for the outdoors, and choose to share that passion with their girls. “Selby especially loves the outdoors and is one who is very go, go, go.” Amy explains. That love for nature and movement energizes the couple to incorporate that into their family culture.

Preparing for Play
Even before they had children, Amy and Selby, who love canoeing and kayaking, made the decision to forgo purchasing a kayak and opted instead for a canoe stable enough to put both of their future children in the middle, enabling the family to enjoy playing together.

“We’ve always loved playing with our kids. Since we love being outdoors, we wanted to pass that on to our kids. That way we can all be together doing something everyone enjoys,” explains Amy. As babies, Addie and Kylie were toted around via baby bike seats. When they outgrew those, the family budget included the purchase of a tandem bike. When they outgrew that, the girls were given their own bike … and the family has been on a roll ever since.

Today, both Addie, 11, and Kylie, 8, truly enjoy spending time outdoors with their parents. The feeling is mutual. “We love hanging out with our kids and showing them love. I think kids need to know that, as their parents, we like hanging out with them,” Amy says. “We make it a point to plan our weekends as a family.” For many parents, critically busy and full of jam-packed duties, that just may be the key to successful family playtime – intentionality. Being together and playing is something the Weeks family is intentional in pursuing.

Making Time for Playtime
As a business owner, during the week, Selby often works long hours and late nights. Amy’s focus is full with homeschooling her girls and maintaining the rest of life’s responsibilities. The girls are involved in extracurricular activities including sports and clubs. Needless to say, the Weeks family is your typical, super-busy suburban family. When the weekend arrives, the Weeks parents seize the opportunity to capture that beneficial quality time. “If I do a girls’ night, I typically try to plan those for the weekday and will often decline weekend invitations. That way we can all be in the same place and have fun together,” Amy says.

Playtime activities with the family include canoeing, hiking, and a lot of time on the West Orange Trail. Finding an activity that fits into the enjoyment of each individual can be tricky, but allowing everyone to find something they enjoy makes it fun for all. Often, each member prefers a different mode of transportation during trail time. “We’ve had it where Selby was on a skateboard, Addie in her rollerblades, I was running, and Kylie rode her bike.” Allowing individuality not only enables the family to have fun; it also inspires them to want to be together. “It’s not that my kids don’t also ask to go to other people’s houses, but when they ask for a friend sleepover, they typically ask if that person can come to our home,” says Amy, explaining a noticed result from the family’s focus on together playtime.

Fun Family Activities
Play is a central theme in the Weeks household. Amy finds activities the girls enjoy and then incorporates her and Selby into their fun as well. “I think when you play with your kids, you get the amazing opportunity to see them from a different perspective. Plus you get re-energized because you’re playing too.” At one point the girls were really into drawing. Amy bought doodle placemats and after dinner, the foursome would sit together and doodle. “Of course, my family can’t go without trying to one-up each other on funny, so our pictures would get sillier and sillier.”

Board games are a big hit in their home, too. Keeping play in sight and top of mind, current games enjoyed by the crew sit out in the open so as to be aptly noticed. It’s common for someone in the home to see a loved game and proclaim, “Let’s play this!” Even though some games can take a lot of time – and perhaps with some parents, an act of Congress – to schedule a time to play it, the Weeks try to introduce games that can be played often and may only take a few minutes. Making it fun and easy to execute enables the family to actually play together.

Playtime Benefits
It’s not only the kids who benefit from play. The National Institute for Play says, “Play refreshes a long-term, adult-adult relationship. Some of the hallmarks are humor, the enjoyment of novelty, of mutual storytelling, and the capacity to openly divulge imagination. These playful interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and … (a) more rewarding relationship.”

Complimenting that decree, the Weeks family’s annual summer trip exemplifies this notion. “Selby and I make it a point to go boogie boarding as a family. There are times I have to force myself away from the relaxation of lying on the beach and go boogie board with our girls. I’m so glad I do. It’s one of my fondest family memories.”


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Written by Jenny Fauser