Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekly Column: Playing is FUN!

As a stay-at-home mom, my hands are full of time.

Time spent managing everyday household excitement like meals and laundry, and time spent teaching and raising my children, and time spent squeezing in a few moments for myself of reading or writing. The days are loud and full, and I find myself constantly putting something off until tomorrow. I’m okay with that.

But there’s one thing I put off too often, and I’d bet I’m not alone in my procrastination.

Playing.

With kids in the house, there’s always some amount of playful activity going on around me. And I like it that way. I’m careful to praise them for their creativity and quick to notice when they solve their own problems in the midst of a disagreement. But I’m not very good about putting aside my own task and playing with them.

Oh, I play with them when it suits me or in order to get them occupied so I can finish what I was working on, but do I seek them out with the intent to simply play?

Not very often.

Playing with our children is so beneficial in more ways than we probably understand. Besides fostering a relationship of trust and reinforcing our kids’ feelings of self-worth in the long run (no mere side-affects), sharing play with our kids can provide very basic lessons.

When my girls play happily until a toy is mutually desired but singularly hoarded, I would be able to guide them in figuring out a compromise if I were sitting right there, playing along. Instead of becoming a situation where mom is yelled for while an argument escalates into a fight, it would be a simple thing to navigate – to teach them helpful habits. If I were playing beside them.

When my preschooler becomes frustrated at her imperfect block-castle and is ready to give up, I could encourage her if I were playing beside her. Instead of watching her storm off and throw a fit, I’d be able to model that even mom gets frustrated when things don’t go right. Instead of giving up, she’d see that it’s possible to try a different strategy and keep working. She’d see that, if the castle doesn’t come together exactly, it still makes a wonderful barn, or boat, and the fun can continue. She’d learn to persevere with a little nudge in that direction. If I were playing beside her.

When my toddler uncaps every marker, coloring a single line with each before dropping it to the ground, I would be able to remind her to replace their lids if I were coloring, too. She would be able to focus while I helped her click the lids back into place and pile them away from the edge of the table. She would learn how to keep the marker on the paper, not the table. I wouldn’t be upset by finding a markered-up toddler, because I would have been there to stop her from coloring on herself. If I were playing beside her.

I know play time is hard to come by for us adults. I know we’re busy. There are things that have to get done, and playing feels like a luxury we can’t afford. But it doesn’t have to be. We can spend small dimes of our day playing with our children, and if we’re intentional about it, arranging our schedules accordingly, our days won’t be any more or less busy in the end.

Our kids are worth our time, and playing with them is vital to their growth. Plus – admit it – playing is FUN!




[Online version here.]

5 comments:

  1. This post is definitely getting bookmarked... and situated at the top of the list. My husband is admittedly the more "fun" parent, whilst I am often the harried one running around trying to take care of everything. I am impatient and I find it impossible to RELAX. But my children are children and when I do take that time to play with them, the light that comes into their eyes takes my breath away with remorse that I don't bless them with the presence of "Fun Mom" more often. As always, your column has made me think -- thanks, friend!

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  2. I have had the same thoughts so many times! I think I'll get off the computer now and go find my daughters...

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  3. it WAS fun, until I pulled a muscle jumping on the trampoline earlier today!

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  4. Oooh, can you re-post this pretty frequently, just to remind me how important it is?? This is an area where my education works against me... too often I catch myself observing very clinically (Look, parallel play, blah de blah de developmental phases, etc) instead of actually PARTICIPATING.

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  5. I agree. Playtime is essential. There is so much bonding that occurs when we ignore things like laptops, books, and the TV and actually engage with our kids. In whatever form we can.

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?