How I Found a Way to Play and Thrive With My Kids

Sarah Ann Noel essentials

I do not qualify as the “mom who likes to play.” For some reason, that is hard for me to admit, because in my mind, a good mom is the type to hike up her skirt, get down on the floor, and act out imaginary life with plastic figurines and wooden dollhouse creatures. I will give myself grace and I will say that I am good at other parts of motherhood – like making possibly the world’s best chocolate chip cookies and turning cardboard boxes into spaceships. But when it comes to play, I’d have to ‘fess up: I’m not any good.

Perhaps this is because I have my own active imagination. I operate in the realms of creativity, and so, in some sense, I have my own play, just at a different level than that of my children. I am desperate for creative outlets and I can’t translate the need for output into child’s play.

My daughters are only 20 months apart. When my youngest hit about 6 months, my older daughter was only just 2; and their needs were at maximum intensity, but completely different. There were moments I told friends it would have been easier to have twins because at least then I could have done everything twice instead of two different versions of feedings, naps, laundry and entertainment. By the time I got through two independent sets of needs, there were very few moments left to call my own, and I was often too exhausted to use them for anything other than watching snippets of “Pride and Prejudice”.

One day, I found myself explaining the word “adventure” to my 2-year-old, and right then I had a miraculous brainstorm. It must have been a divine seed planted into my brain because in my young mommy fog, I don’t think I could have concocted the plan on my own; but I found a way to satisfy the need for activity for both of my children as well as make a creative space for myself. Thus was born The Marvelous Adventures of Iris and Edith.

The Marvelous Adventures of Iris and Edith, Volume 2 from Sarah Ann Noel on Vimeo.

This is a favorite shared pastime for me and my daughters, a medium for fun, imagination and creativity all rolled into one. I will stage an “adventure” for them, providing them the setting, costumes, tools, and then, turning them loose to explore, I shoot video of the experience. To fuel my own creative fires, I use the evening or the next nap time to compile and edit my footage into short films that we enjoy together. We have been doing this for several years, and both daughters will still request to watch the videos—something we’ve been able to “play” together, as well as a visual record of their childhood adventures.

I want to do things that my daughters want to do, even if they are not my favorite things – like play dollhouse. I want to be that mom. I also want my daughters to know me as a woman, as a whole person. I have playful parts, adult versions, and I want my girls to see that in me. I now think the “good mom” part of getting down and playing with your kids is more about letting them see you, be with you, interact with you, and to watch you enjoy life.


SarahAnnNoel_CroppedSarah Ann Noel married into a family where she became the fourth Sarah Noel, so in the interest of originality, Sarah Ann Noel it shall be.

Sarah is a wife, a mother, and a prodigious over-thinker, fueled by superfluous amounts of caffeine. She likes to color coordinate her books and leave her hair messy. She and her family travel a lot, which Sarah documents through photos and video. Sarah is a freelance writer and contributes regularly to several magazines and online platforms.

She is working on her first book. Read more at sarahannnoel.com.