5 Brilliant Ideas for Making Playtime More Magical Than Ever

published Aug 8, 2021
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child with butterfly
Credit: Jess Foung

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Before the pandemic, we always packed our schedules. We jammed the day full of playdates, visits to museums, and trips to somewhere local or far away, all before bedtime (and sometimes, way past it). We never wasted a single minute. And I believed that the most memorable moments often came with tickets or travel, and definitely existed beyond the home. But as the world opens back up and our pace quickens once again, one thing I will take with me is the realization that we need little more than ourselves and our imagination to make magic. 

From the beginning of shelter in place, I tried to be honest with my kids about what was happening while also shielding them from stress and fear. Even as our world shrunk, I wished for our sense of hope to remain large and full. And I desperately wanted to find a way to make the redundancy of life at home somehow exciting. So I took inspiration from their love of all things fantasy, and I leaned in hard to the world of mythical creatures and enchantment. 

Credit: Jess Foung

Our magical life kicked off with humble beginnings. We started by finding a wishing star each evening before bed; a routine that helped end the day with promise for the one ahead. Then, we began building fairy houses out of cardboard or sticks that we found on walks. Sometimes we put out presents (like a blueberry or acorn top). And sometimes we’d get a surprise in return (like a letter on a leaf or a pretty flower). 

Soon, we spent afternoons concocting potions from paint, oil, and other items in the pantry. Or conjuring spells and charms for everything from a sunny weekend to healing a stubbed toe. We charged crystals under the full moon. We sent letters to Harry Potter via a Hedwig owl stuffie. And we painted “wishing” rocks, scattering them throughout the neighborhood for other people to find. Even the grandparents jumped in on the fun and hid gnomes in their yard for a safe, distanced activity. 

Credit: Jess Foung

And we began exploring reiki — an alternative, healing practice that harnesses universal energy through the palms of your hands. Which in turn led to our daughter performing it on the garden, on me, and very frequently on her brother at night, during his evening tantrums. 

[Magic] reaffirmed the belief that not only would things get better, but we all held the power and the magic to make it so. 

In many ways, diving into the world of the magical gave us all an escape. It carried us through the year, providing dazzling moments of excitement and wonder during hard days.  But most importantly, it helped us pay attention to the small moments we took granted before — from watching seeds grow to watching the sun retreat into the night. And it reaffirmed the belief that not only would things get better, but we all held the power and the magic to make it so. 

Tap into Magic at Home

It is my personal belief that you can harness magic from anything. It can be store-bought or homemade. It can be a wand that uses batteries or one made from a chopstick and some pipe cleaners. It can be a penny you throw into a fountain or a special tree you sit beneath. The best part of magic? It’s everywhere! 

To get things rolling, here are some ideas.

Credit: Jess Foung

Magical Doors, Fairies, and Gnomes 

Lots of pre-made options exist on Etsy, Amazon, and other retailers. Some products you build or paint on your own. Others require little more than nestling into a grassy spot on your lawn or the corner of your room. For a DIY approach that also provides a fun hands-on activity, you can also use a collection of found materials from nature and your home to build the perfect fairy house.

Credit: Jess Foung

Crystals and Gems

While the power of crystals cannot be scientifically verified, their ability to jumpstart a practice of mindfulness and reflection is undeniable. Plus, they are really pretty. As you dive into the world of rocks, gems, and minerals, use the trusty internet or books to understand the specific powers held in each. Companies like Little Box of Rocks and Chakra Zula will ship crystals right to your doorstep. But don’t overlook the rocks in your own backyard or neighborhood. Even an unpolished stone can become a lucky pebble magical, if you decide it is. You can use a rock tumbler to polish your discoveries or simply paint seven rocks the colors of the chakra system. A little glitter glue and some time under a full moon will definitely ignite a magical spark. 

Wizards and Witches

Pull from your children’s favorite books and movies to come up with activities, like spell casting, potion making, and our latest favorite — broomstick training (which is literally the combination of a  big stick or broom and an obstacle course made from couch pillows). I also found that Outschool offers fun options for extra instruction and hands-on learning — like this class that connects the world of Harry Potter to astronomy, astrology, and ancient mythology. 

In the Neighborhood

For the simplest option of all, look no further than your home. Many communities set up wishing trees for the neighborhood — providing paper, string, and pens for passers-by to hang their wishes and dreams. If your neighborhood doesn’t have one, yet, start one! With a quick search, you can also find what towns, parks, and trails might have fairy doors and fairy gardens near you. Or simply take a walk and ask your kids to look for something magical. Whether it is a twisting tree or a bush of purple flowers, they’ll surely spot something extraordinary.  

Credit: Jess Foung

From Nature

After a year of Zoom and high reliance on screens and technology, tap into the magic of Mother Nature. Plant a windowsill garden of herbs or regrow vegetables from their discarded roots; chart the changing shape of the moon or study the mythology of the stars; build a birdhouse or bird feeder and see who it attracts; dig for shells at the beach; or wake your crew up early to watch the sun rise. This past year reminded me that each day offers endless moments of magic as long as we slow down and pay attention to what’s right in front of us.