Playtime can be a point of pleasure or contention for parents. For some it comes natural, while others loathe the thought of getting into their child’s world.
I get that. I have two preschool-aged children, one boy and one girl. I have a much easier time playing with my daughter, who thinks the way I do. Her make believe scenes include Barbie dolls and her idea of fun is a board game.
My son also likes playing make believe, but he uses cars, trucks, planes, and dinosaurs. When I try to join in, I find myself exhausted by the effort. My attempts at dialogue are incorrect by his standards and, to be honest, I end up bored.
Playing with my children is still important, though. They feel our love after one-on-one playtime through the attention we are giving. Recognizing that they are important enough for us to spend time with doing what they like to do, helps them feel special.
It also doesn’t hurt that, as a result of our playtime:
- They are calmer
- They are better behaved
- They are more confident
Do you Hate Playing with Your Kids?
I know that some parents genuinely hate playing with their kids, and that can induce some major guilt. Just as I find it natural to play with my daughter and not my son, other parents may find the same problem with one or all of their children.
Rachel Cedar, author of the 28 Days of Play blog series, had this same problem with her two boys. Then, one day, she hit her six-year-old son with a pillow.
“He turned to me stunned and confused,” she told Today. “I immediately died laughing and told him to grab the other pillow and get me back. An all-out pillow war ensued, with all three of us laughing, tickling, sweaty, whacking each other.”
It’s almost like the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman – kids have “play languages.” Some of them we mesh with and others we don’t. Ironically, I have a much easier time roughhousing with my son than playing make believe with him. Our “play languages” seem to line up in that form.
We don’t always have to be the ones to play with our children but, when we do, the benefits are there for both parties. We may enter into the engagement kicking and screaming, but it’s worth looking for a copacetic place.
Making Play Less Painful
Try to tap into your own silliness, which may not be the same as theirs. Just as Cedar discovered pillow fights as a way for her to have fun, you might love wrestling with your child, dancing, or turning cartwheels. We have the opportunity to see the world as children through our own kids – take advantage of it!
- Using stuffed animals or dolls to act our real-life issues
- Safely wrestling or pillow fighting
- Playing outdoors on playground equipment or using sports equipment like balls or bats
- Play board games or card games
- Do crafts together
- Listen to music, dance and sing
- Read books together
- Watch movies or TV shows together
- Play kids games like Mother May I, Hide and Seek, and Follow the Leader
Cedar’s 28 Days of Play series is also a great way to not only get ideas but to relate with other parents who may find playtime hard! Check out her 2014 and 2015 blog posts and look for next year’s in February!