I recently had a single, working mom ask me for ideas of how to play with her daughter. This really got me thinking. I'm a SAHM, you would think I spend all day playing with my kids, but I don't. Honestly now that my kids are both over two years old, I don't technically play with my kids that much. What I do is I set up opportunities for THEM to play throughout the day, and I sprinkle in a few times when I play with them.
I went over some different ideas with this mom, art, blocks, board games. I could see that she had tried all these things, and didn't seem too excited about them. Yeah she had done watercolor, but her daughter only wants to do it for 10 minutes. Yeah she has blocks, but her daughter gets bored quickly with those as well. The fact is that we moms do lots of activities with our kids, and it's gets boring for us too!
What we need to do is find things that WE love doing. I showed this mom a sewing project that I recently did with my kids, and I saw her eyes light up. I mentioned that she could sew a small pillow, or something else that her daughter might enjoy. She immediately said, "Yeah, we could sew her a pillow for nap time at school!" This mom then went on to tell me how her mom was a professional seamstress when she was growing up and she herself had learned to sew at a young age. We talked about going to Joanns and picking out supplies, she was really excited about this. It made me happy to know that this mom was going to pass down something that her mom had taught her, and she was truly excited about doing it.
After our interaction I thought more about the question of how we should be playing with our kids. I have to say, I really think it comes down to finding something that YOU love doing. If you are constantly doing activities with your kids and these activities bore you, your kids will sense this and get tired of the activity after 10 minutes. But if you do something you love, your excitement will become contagious! If you loved baking when you were growing up, chances are your kids might love this too, so bake with them. If you loved playing with legos, buy some legos and play legos with them. Here are some ways I play with my kids that I actually enjoy as much as they do:
Art. If you've checked out the rest of my blog, you can see that we do lot's of art. This usually doesn't require me playing with them, I set it up and let my kids do the work.
Classes/playgrounds. These are fun for me because I don't have to plan anything. I just show up and my kids play. I actually play very little with my kids during these activities. They get absorbed in the activity and aren't worried about me being by their side 24/7. I also love that I can chat with other moms at these activities.
Play catch. We went to Dick's Sporting Goods a few weeks ago and bought little kid baseball gloves and smushy balls. I loved playing softball in high school, so I got really excited about this, my kids sensed my excitement and they got excited too. This is an activity we can do together that I actually enjoy! We've played in the house, in the backyard and at the park.
Gardening. I enjoy gardening and it's something where my kids can play alongside me. Sometimes they help me with digging or watering, but mostly they just play with their trucks and toys out there.
Dancing. I'm no dancer, but we crank up the music and have dance parties when no one but my kids are watching. I used to especially love doing this on days that I worked. Those were the days when I would come home feeling stressed and my kids had all this energy built up and needed to be with me. I found that dancing helped us all release stress while having fun. Don't be afraid to play music that YOU love! This is one of my kids favorite activities, they never say no to a dance party.
Puppet shows. My kids sit on pillows and I hide behind the couch with a couple of their toys and act out a story. I really act over the top with this and pretend like they are at a real puppet show. I always start with, "Welcome to the greatest puppet show on earth boys and girls." Their faces seriously light up when we do this, it's kind of hilarious. I'll take different blankets and lie them on our couch as a backdrop. I'll move the white blanket back and forth in the air and tell them it's a terrible snow storm, or lay the jungle blanket down and have dolls get lost in the jungle. Then we take turns and I sit and have my son or daughter put on the puppet show. I laugh out loud when they start theirs with, "Welcome to the greatest puppet show on Earth," as well.
The best part about puppet shows is you can act out real life situations. Maybe a mean stuffed animal is always taking toys from the little stuffed animal, or maybe the little bunny is having a hard time saying goodbye at school drop offs. Any life situation they might be going through can be acted out with puppets. My kids don't always listen to me, but strangely enough I find that they really listen to and learn from the puppets.
Play teacher. Lately my daughter has been doing a lot of pretend play where I am her teacher. I've taken advantage of this and do actual lessons with them. It helps that I was a teacher for 14 years and I miss teaching! Again I'll have them sit on pillows, while I sit on the couch and I talk to them like I'm their actual teacher. We'll do things like practice reading or look at a globe. If you act like yourself they won't get into this, you have to put on a different persona and even change your voice a little. When I do this I refer to them as "boys and girls," and they call me Ms. Bekah (my daughter's current preschool teacher).
If you are a working mom and your kids are in a daycare or nanny setting, they are getting lots of great opportunities to play in these settings all day long! Don't feel guilty for not spending the next 2 hours playing with your kids, what they really need from you is a good 20-30 minutes of fun when you all get home, something that will help them reconnect with you. Find something that YOU enjoy doing, and do that with them!
If you are a SAHM you can give them lots of opportunities to play throughout the day. Focus on creating opportunities where you don't need to play with them, including lots and lots of free play. Then choose something you love to do that will help them feel connected to you at some point during the day.
At around 4:30 my kids moods start to go downhill, they start asking for everything their eyes fall on, especially my 2 year old. But really I think they just want to connect with me. If I do a dance party, or a puppet show, they get that connection and the rest of the night goes smoother for all of us. Find something that YOU love doing and playing with your kids won't feel like a chore!
I'd love to hear from you, what is your favorite activity that YOU love to do with your kids?