The Pursuit of Play

Glen and Justine Nielsen, along with their five children, always make time in their busy lives to be together as a family.
Glen and Justine Nielsen along with their five children always make time in their busy lives to be together as a family

Five kids means five times the opportunity for fabulous family fun for the Nielsen family of Oviedo. Glen and Justine are passionate about picking and pursuing playtime as a family. Fun at the Nielsen house varies as large as the ages of their five children, who are two through 14 years old.

Family activity highlights include playing outside, biking, running and playing sports together. The Neilsens also enjoy building forts as a group and celebrating their building prowess by camping out in them for the night. The Nielsen house certainly has a focus on togetherness and support … not to mention fun. “The girls love to dance and put on shows for us to watch. We play cards and games and watch movies together,” Justine shares.

Family Comes First
As ministry leaders for Campus Crusade for Christ, Glen and Justine spend their days running conferences for college students who want to learn more about, and deepen their relationship with, God. Like so many others, their schedule is full with work, responsibilities, and the day-to-day business of life. Oh yeah, and the fact there are five kids in the family.

Equal to the responsibilities that are common to us all, Glen and Justine have always believed that making time for fun as a family is every bit as critical for a fulfilling family life. The couple simply make it a point to do things together with their children and as a family as a whole. It’s part of the Nielsen family culture. “We are very passionate about family time and enjoying our kids. We love being together and have always made it a point to do thing together, including always eating dinner as a family and having family night every Friday,” explains Justine.

Making Time for Playtime
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.” Glen and Justine would agree. Nielsen playtime proves beneficial in the eyes of Glen and Justine. Noting the observed benefits to the couple’s emphasis on fun, Justine conveys, “It helps our kids enjoy each other and grow up friends. It helps them bond.”

As life hustles and bustles by, Justine imparts some helpful nuggets that allow her family playtime to be reality. “Set regular times to play that you all know will happen no matter what.” She and Glen also make a regular time as parents to discuss the week’s schedules. During this time they decide what activities they want to fit in for their playtime over their next week. “When the kids have time off from school for a few days, Glen and I will connect a few days ahead of time and talk about what we want to do and fit in our schedule. One of our favorite things has been the seven of us taking a long bike ride to the frozen yogurt shop.” For the Nielsens, knowing what their plan is when they wake up each morning helps to make the plan actually happen.

Playtime Benefits
Playtime isn’t just for the tykes though. Take note from recent research. The National Institute for Play declares, “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.”

Playtime, where all seven members participate and have fun together, allows the Nielsen parents to exemplify to their children the benefit of being a family. Ultimately, it’s a unifying entity. “It helps them (the kids) feel safe in our home, knowing that we are all on each other’s side,” Justine says.

With life being as busy as it is, Justine and her husband feel strongly in the importance of making time to be together. Beyond the easy fact that it’s just fun for them to be together, the Nielsens feel blessed that they are capturing their children growing up and that they get to be a part of all the “cute things they say and do.”

Justine and Glen’s conviction to play together as a family echoes truth with Justine’s parting words of wisdom, “Sometimes you just have to stop what you are doing and say, “I am choosing to play.” There will never be enough hours in a day to do everything and play. You have to be intentional about it.”


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Written by Jenny Fauser