Slow Down and Play

As an early childhood education student, the more I learned, the more I decided that best practices for young kids were best for us all. We can all benefit from slowing down, making time for wonder, delighting in simple joys, playing, snuggling, moving outdoors, giggling, and maybe even napping. How can we invite these practices into our parenting education classes?

These concepts can build community within your classes and model fun ideas for family life. Slow down and play!

Set the Stage

Joyfully greeting our families helps them feel more comfortable and welcomed in what might be a vulnerable space. We can have materials for people to interact with during the class, such as Play-Doh, crayons, or magna-tiles. If you have slides or posters you can design, add some color and graphics to help them pop. There are many free templates online, such as Slidesgo or Canva). Sitting with people, playing with them, and chatting is an excellent opportunity to center play and relationships. This “special time” was developed by Sheila Eyberg and described in this NPR article. Use this time to talk through the PRIDE (Praise, Reflect, Imitate, Describe, Enthusiasm) acronym referenced in the NPR article so families can try this at home.

Plan Your Breaks

Maybe it seems counterintuitive to plan play, but boosting happiness takes effort. Shawn Achor writes in The Happiness Advantage, “Happiness is not just a mood – it’s a work ethic.” During our short breaks in class, we can infuse some play. Not only is this an opportunity for us to feel better, but we are also modeling strategies for our class to use at home. We can show a quick art inspiration with a clip from Draw Together. We might energize ourselves with a brief walk outdoors around the building. We can decorate the sidewalk outside with chalk art. We might move through a guided meditation.


There’s more than enough joy to go around. Ingrid Fetell Lee and the School of Joy remind us that “someone else finding joy doesn’t decrease our own chances. In fact, it makes it more likely.” We are not in competition with each other. Some of our internal scripts reinforce this scarcity concept. We can help reframe this into abundance. The School of Joy offers ideas to react to comments such as, “I don’t have time,” suggesting, “I have plenty of time to do what matters to me.” Turn “You can’t get something for nothing” into “I don’t need to sacrifice to achieve my dreams.”

Boost Engagement

Sometimes, a family member in the class may not be as engaged as we would love. We can start with ourselves to ensure that we are centered and welcoming. Are we harboring any biases that may be barriers? Are there identity markers that we can learn more about to ensure our classes are inclusive for them? Consider their strengths. Seeing the best in them might help them feel validated and develop a sense of belonging in class. Ask them to illustrate an agenda if you notice them doodling during class. Athina Ntoulia writes for NAEYC, “Inclusive teachers learn about children’s [people’s] unique skills, talents, and passions and use that information to create engaging learning experiences.”

Take a Field Trip!

Do you remember how exciting field trips were in grade school? Shawn Achor writes in The Happiness Advantage, “Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation.” Schedule optional activities for your class to build community and joy. Looking forward to something fun on the calendar, and the event itself can reap rewards. You’re in the perfect spot in western Oregon to try forest bathing. Invite all family members along. Young kids will slow everyone down, which is ideal, according to Gary Evans, director of the Forest Bathing Institute: “The difference between normal activities and forest bathing is that we’re going to move very slowly,” says Evans. Forest bathing is about calming down your nervous system and reducing your heart rate and blood pressure.” Travel Oregon has inspiration for other field trip ideas close to home for you.

As busy professionals, I understand that play can seem challenging to add to our days. By adding some of these rituals to your life first, you may recognize benefits that convince you of the value of play and rest.


Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Joyful by Ingrid Lee Fetell

Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey

Rest Life by Tricia Hersey

Ten Percent Happier

By Megan McQueen. Spanish translation by IRCO’s International Language Bank.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, imparting a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

Learn more about the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative and read our blog!

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