The latest way for parents to to beat stress is child’s play

The latest way for parents to to beat stress is child’s play

December 2, 2018

Laura Kemp, 44, an author, lives in Penarth, South Wales, with her writer husband James, 49, and their son Paddy, 11.

There’s only one thing I’m hoping to find under the tree this Christmas – a new Lego set.

It might sound juvenile but I’m obsessed with the stuff, much to the bemusement of my husband and son.

As a child, I always coveted those packets of brightly-coloured bricks. If I went to play at a friend’s house, I would always beg to see their Lego sets.

Sadly, since Lego was expensive, I never had any of my own. As I grew up, I pushed the interest to the back of my mind.

But when I was pregnant with Paddy, I realised I could give him the Lego I never had when I was younger. When Paddy was three, I bought him his first bricks.

He adored playing with them and I started buying more and more.

From a young age he loved Star Wars, so I bought sets such as Jabba the Hutt’s palace and we built them together on the carpet.

As time went on, it became obvious I was enjoying the Lego just as much as he was.

So I was delighted when, in 2012, Paddy and I were given the Lego Death Star set as a joint present from James.

It cost £350 but, in my opinion, it was more than worth the price tag.

Once I started building, I would keep going for hours, long after Paddy had wandered off.

My husband couldn’t understand why I was so obsessed, but the truth was I found it very relaxing. For me, putting the 4,000 bricks together one by one was like meditation.

It took about a week to finish, and afterwards I had such a sense of achievement.

Now Paddy is 11 he’s no longer interested in Lego. Instead, he enjoys football and his XBox.

But for me Lego is a lifelong love. As an author, I spend my day thinking and writing so it’s great to do something with my hands instead of my brain.

Over the years I must have spent at least £3,000.

But it’s all worth it because when I’m playing with Lego, everything else fades from my mind and all I think about is where to put the next brick.

My kids think it’s funny that I love Play-Doh

Lizzie Catt, 42, a social media manager, lives in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, with her husband Will, 37, a journalist, and their children Eva, four, and Alex aged three.

I don’t think there’s a mum or dad out there who doesn’t play with their kids’ toys after they go to bed.

I know so many parents who have built towering Duplo creations or made a Brio train track that traverses the living room floor.

But it’s Play-Doh that has me hooked.

At first I was reluctant to have it in the house. I had visions of the kids mixing the colours into a brown mush, and treading it into the carpet.

Usually, they do all their craft activities at my mum’s house, a safe distance from my carpet and walls.

But when someone bought them a kit to make Play-Doh pizzas for Christmas, I relented. I watched as they made wobbly-looking circles from it, then I made a Pizza Express American hot pizza with a salad in the middle.

When I’d finished, I looked at it and thought: I’m a genius. After that, I was obsessed.

At the end of a long day when the kids are asleep, I pull the cartons of squishy clay out of the cupboard and make little models. It’s a good way to entertain myself in the evenings, or when the kids are taking four hours to eat fish fingers and chips.

I even have an app on my phone that can do stop-motion animation.

I started moulding characters out of Play-Doh and making 10-second films with them.

I made a zombie one which my kids loved. They think it’s hilarious that their mum plays with their toys.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that Lego has started marketing directly to adults.

I think toys like Lego and Play-Doh absorb us in a way that smartphones and TV don’t. I can’t watch a TV show, no matter how good, without reaching for my phone.

Then what I see on social media annoys me and I miss what’s going on in the show.

But kids’ toys are the absolute opposite.

You can get lost in the creative side of it.

What’s more, it’s satisfying because the results are good.

After all, if it says on the box the toy is suitable for three-year-olds, a 42-year-old should be reasonably competent at it.

I started colouring workshops for adults

Sarah Lovell, 38, an illustrator, lives in Wimborne, Dorset, with her husband Peter, 43, a company director, and their children Claudia, nine, Henry, seven, and four-year-old Samuel.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved drawing and colouring. It’s completely absorbing and makes whatever stresses you have in life fade away.

After I finished school, I did an art degree and set up a business as an illustrator in 2013. I started off making cards and colouring books for children.

Then a few years ago, I decided to set up workshops where children could colour in a picture from one of my books.

The classes were a big hit, and I noticed that when they had a colouring pencil in their hand, they found it much easier to open up and talk about things.

But it’s not just children who find colouring therapeutic. In the past few years, adult colouring books have become incredibly popular. Last month I set up a colouring workshop for adults, and was amazed by how popular it was.

I put on some gentle music in the background and let people choose a picture to colour in. Since they were adults, I expected most of them to go for a wildlife picture but to my surprise the most popular choice was a unicorn. I suppose it just goes to show adults love to use their imagination as much as children do.

We spend so much of our time rushing between work and family commitments, so it’s no surprise we’re desperate for new ways to switch off from it all.

By sitting and colouring for an hour, the women in my workshop were able to take that time out of their day to do something just for them. And at the end, they had a beautiful picture.

  • See for details about workshops

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