For a moment think back to your childhood. What do you remember most about play time? I can see myself riding my bike, splashing in the creek with friends, sitting in my bff’s tree house playing Barbies, making secret clubs in my closet with friends and making up plays with my cousins. These are some killer memories!
Now really think about it, who did you spend most of your time with during play? As an only child, I had to either find friends to play with or spend time with myself. I can rarely place a memory during free play time where my mom was present. There are only a handful of times that she actually sat down and played with me. To this day, I get why she would tell me that she didn’t want to dress Barbies over and over again.
It wasn’t as if she neglected me because I have thousands of memories doing fun things and going places with my mom. There were many game nights and being silly around the house, but as far as playing, NONE!
I Suck At Playing
I can’t be the only parent who lets out a big sigh when the kids ask to play. Play should be fun and it is NOT because kids and parents play completely different. I want to have structure for what we are doing but the kids want a free for all. The plan in my head on how to play is completely different than their train of thought. As we play, we constantly have to explain our next move to one another.
I understand the kids want me to be involved and that’s cool, but only when it’s fun. The moment it stops being fun for anyone, I’m out. They have their ways to play and I have mine. But I want to show them that I’m interested in what they are doing so I set limits. I’ll say something like, “Ok, I’ll play for 20 minutes and then I have things I need to get done upstairs.” By setting a time limit to my free play, I have an escape plan. This way they get the attention they want and I don’t have to sit there being bossed around playing their game.
Free Play Lets The Imagination Run Wild
But honestly, it’s more entertaining for me to watch my kids engage in their own play. They concoct these elaborate stories as a group or on their own. There is an entire imaginary cat family that lives in my house who I’ve never seen or heard of until recently. Apparently, they have been here for ages according to the kids. The cats have names and specific owners, places they sleep and special foods they eat.
If I became involved in this game, I would definitely screw everything up by asking too many realistic questions. And this is the norm in our house. Even with four kids, they are all great about letting their creativity flow.
I used to think it was weird that my kids would talk to themselves, but what I realized is they were voicing their ideas out loud. On a daily basis, I catch a child with one stuffed animal whispering to it. I have no idea what is happening and truthfully it’s none of my business.
Letting Go Of Mom Guilt Regarding Play
I don’t feel guilty about not playing with my kids because we do so many other things together. It’s so much fun now to take them places to experience life or go on adventures.
Even at the playground, I do not play. This where they get to explore and do what kids do best: make new friends.
But think about it, who really wants mom to play with them? She has a lot of rules and stipulations to follow in the house that will probably carry over into play. By not playing with my kids, I am unlocking a new level of independence as well.
My kids have learned to do so many other things on their own like doing their laundry, making lunches, picking up after themselves, acquiring attributes they will need as adults. Entertaining themselves is another item on the list of things they will need be able to do.
Find Fun Activities To Do Together
While pretend play time might not your jam (or mine), there are still plenty of ways to get that one on one time with your kids.
- Teaching them card games from your childhood
- Board Games
- Family movie night
- Exploring your neighborhood with nature walks
- Hiking at a local park
- Reading books together
- Walking the dog
- Day Trips
- Tossing a ball around in the backyard
As a family, we do lots of fun things together but when it comes to play, they are on their own. I know that this works best for our family and I get to see their imagination soar when they don’t have an adult stifling their fun.