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Monarch therapist shares why summer playtime for families is important

Why fun activities are essential to growth and development for both children and adults Ana-Liza Cisneros-Howard copy
Another school year has ended and many parents are having some difficulty keeping their children engaged or finding meaningful activities for them while they are out of school for summer break.

Monarch therapist Ana Liza Cisneros-Howard, MSW, LCSW, and a Registered Play Therapist, knows the importance of allowing children space to play. Cisneros-Howard (pictured right) said the summer is one of the best times for parents to provide kids with opportunities to do just that.

“Play a board game together, do something interactive like an art project, go out for ice cream, or simply get the coloring books and crayons out and color together, and leave the electronics off more than they are on,” Cisneros-Howard suggested. 

The Monarch therapist said we all have an inner child. Engaging in fun activities are key ways kids – and adults – need to recharge. During the summer, parents have more opportunities to spend quality time with their children. If not, it can contribute to depressive symptoms and potential professional burn out.

According to the Association for Play Therapy (APT), playtime is essential to human growth, development, learning and cultivating relationships. The APT explains play is our first language. Just as adults use words to communicate, children use play. During play, children express thoughts and feelings that might otherwise remain hidden.

Cisneros-Howard explained when parents invest the time to talk with their children, it helps them to process what they are experiencing, and models effective ways of conversing, communicating and interacting with the world around them, plus it strengthens the relationship.

The following are additional tips Cisneros-Howard recommends for a healthy and fun summer vacation from The Center for Creativity and Healing in Charlotte:

•Alone-time is good:  Encourage your kids to spend a portion of their day on their own, whether you have one kid or five.  This is good for them all year long, and a great thing for parents to model, too.
•Talk it over:  Have a conversation with your kids about limits before problems occur.  Make sure they know what you expect of them individually.  
• Mix it up:  Don't expect everyone to do everything together.   Allow for activities between pairs or small groups.  
•Take turns:  Rotate who gets to choose what the family does together, and keep it equal.  Set up any family-playing-boardguidelines for choices ahead of time.  
• Keep it real:  Consider keeping some routines the same, even though it’s summertime (e.g. bedtime or bedtime routine).  Kids still need more sleep than you for proper brain development.  
• Limit screen time:  Just because it’s summertime doesn't mean screen time should be unlimited. Kids need physical and mental stimulation and activity all year long.  
• Bottom line: Be flexible! 

Open up to the possibility that things don’t have to be a certain way, and that maybe your “ideal” situation isn’t everyone else’s—or even realistic Cisneros-Howard provided a few more summertime resources for parents below:

The Registered Play Therapist also emphasized that summer activities don’t have to be expensive or cost any money.  She said summertime play can be as simple as visiting the park, riding a bike, throwing a ball or going for a walk or hike.

Established in 1958, Monarch provides support statewide to thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The agency is nationally accredited by The Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) and is CABHA certified. Monarch, which operates The Arc of Stanly County, is an affiliate chapter of The Arc of North Carolina and The Arc of the United States. To learn more about how Monarch is “Helping Dreams Take Flight” for people living in our communities, please call.        


Media contact: Natasha A. Suber, (704) 986-1582 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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