6 Ways to Play With Your Kids When You Think It’s the Worst
If the inevitable “Play with me!” fills you with dread, you’re not alone. Not all moms and dads are born with the innate desire to play pretend for hours on end. It’s completely normal to cringe at the thought of one more tea party or round of “knock down the tower.” Are you wondering how to play with your kids when you’re just not that into it?
Modern American society has, unfairly, become obsessed with the idea that it’s a parent’s job to entertain their children all day, every day. Buying into that thinking leads to burnout and resentment, which definitely isn’t how you want to feel about your kids.
Instead of giving into every whim at the cost of your very fragile sanity, you need to have your own bag of tricks for dealing with playtime. These creative tips will help you connect with your kiddos without wanting to pull your hair out.
Suggest an Activity You Actually LIKE
You don’t have to enjoy every “game” your child creates. If playing with plastic figurines doesn’t fill you with joy, you shouldn’t have to do it. Instead of watching your hundredth episode of “Caillou,” steer playtime in a different direction. Invite your kids to join you in a pastime you love — or will at least tolerate pleasantly. You could work on a puzzle or play a board game. Offer to read them a story. Your child will value time spent with you no matter what you do. Having a mom or dad who’s completely invested and present in the time you spend together is better than forcing something you don’t enjoy.
Play with Your Kids as Their Audience
When you can’t dissuade them from the activity they want, at least offer to watch. Let your kids do the dressing up or play with action figures. Stay nearby to ask questions and make comments. Remain present and engaged, avoiding the draw of your phone and social media.
Embrace play in all formats. No one said playing with your child has to involve sitting on the floor criss-cross applesauce while you slowly start losing the feeling in your legs.
Instead, use everyday activities as a way to bond with your kids. Very little ones may find your household chores to be just as fun as their toys. If you find art relaxing, share your creative side with your kids. Work on a crafty project together. Find little ways to turn your responsibilities and interests into connection opportunities each day. There is no one right definition of how to play with your kids.
Leave the House
You may have enjoyed “Sid the Science Kid” at first, but now that’s all your kiddo wants to watch. Leaving the house might just be the rut buster you need. Every once in a while, make plans to leave the house and find entertainment elsewhere. Explore a museum, attend a reading at your local library or visit a trampoline park. Heading outdoors to a local park or playground is also a great way to spend time together. Your children’s brains and bodies will benefit from the activity, and you can “play” while sitting on a bench and observing. Getting out and about could be just what you need to break out of your playtime funk and help you enjoy that precious time again.
Set a Timer when You Play With Your Kids
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the activity is — you just don’t have the energy or patience for one-on-one time. It’s OK to feel that way. You can’t properly fill their cup if you’re running on empty. You can use a timer in two ways to help you in these situations. If you have a little energy left, offer to play with your kids for 15 minutes. Set the alarm on your phone and be present with them the entire time. Afterward, you’re free to tend to your needs. When you have nothing left to give, let your child know you’d love to play with them, but you need to do a few things first. Set a timer for however long you need — within reason. Take a quick shower, read alone or slowly sip a cup of coffee. When the timer goes off, switch gears to play mode.
Do a Toy Rotation
If playing with the same toys all the time has you in a bit of a funk, try starting a rotation. Odds are your kids have more than enough toys to pack some away for a while. Keep out the things they’ve been playing with the most. After a few weeks, bring out some different toys from storage and box the current ones up for a bit. Their belongings will feel new again for both of you.
If your kids are old enough to wonder where their toys have gone, discuss the process with them and make sure they’re on board. Maybe try a trial run of the toy rotation first so they can understand before agreeing to it long-term. Preferably, the younger you can start this handy trick, the better, so it becomes a habit for your kids.
Independent Play Is Important Too
Interacting with your children is essential, but it doesn’t always have to look like traditional play. You can play with your kids as you teach them how to help you around the house, run errands together or grow a garden. Your kids’ development won’t suffer if you leave playtime to their imaginations. In fact, independent play is just as crucial for their growth as cooperative play. Learning how to be bored and entertain themselves is an important skill you can instill in your kids by just letting them be alone sometimes. They’ll more than likely come up with something creative and fun to do, all on their own.
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