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I Am Bad at Playing With My Kids

2012 November 28

I am bad at playing with my kids.

Phew. It has taken me a long time to say (type) that. But then a story in this month’s Parents magazine helped me realize I am not the only one.

I am good at loving my kids. I am good at reading to my kids. I am good at taking them fun places like the park and Disneyland and the beach. I am good at making memories for them through jokes and music and special outings. I am good at watching them draw and write and learn to read. I am good at dressing them.

But I am really not that great at “playing” with them. Dolls, trucks, Playdoh, it’s all the same to me and it’s boring. You won’t find me on all fours parading around the house neighing like a horse. You won’t find me pretending to be Doc McStuffins and putting an IV into a stuffed bear. You may find me rocking a baby doll to sleep once in a while, but I can tell you, that doll will be the easiest sleeper you’ve ever met. I can do a million and one things for my kids day in and day out, but somehow I have a very hard time just sitting down to play with them.

So a brilliant writer for Parents who had come to the same conclusion went out and sought some expert advice on how to perk up her family’s playtime. Here is what she found:

1) Prioritize play. Turn off the cell phone and the TV and make playtime a priority. It can be as little as 15 minutes (and, in fact, the writer found that her kids actually tired of her rather quickly once she started playing with them), just enough time to engage with them in play, help meet their immediate needs and hopefully set them on a self-driven journey of imagination.

2) Just say yes. This was a tip from an improv teacher: just say “yes, and….” and see where it takes you. I had actually already been implementing this the past few weeks on my own. When my kids asked me to play Legos or trains or whatnot, instead of automatically coming up with an excuse, I chose to say “yes”, regardless of my mood, and dive in. It was easier done than just said, surprisingly.

3) Keep ’em guessing. The last piece of advice came from a professional clown (clearly he has an edge on the rest of us) who credits surprise and spontaneity with his playful prowess. Start randomly juggling the potatoes when you’re making dinner. Read Fancy Nancy with a fake British accent. Put a bowl on your head while they are brushing their teeth. And then bring one out for them to try on. The key is to put a little goofy into your demeanor to bring a case of the giggles to the whole family.

In the end, the writer summarized it by saying this: our kids don’t actually want to play with us 24/7. They prefer to play with other children, they just like to have us around without an iPhone in hand once in a while…and with a bowl on our heads.

Are you good at playing with your kids?? If yes, please share your secrets in the comments below! If no, please share that in the comments below…so I don’t feel so bad!

*image above via here*

10 Responses leave one →
  1. kristina permalink
    November 28, 2012

    Im not good either! And I used to be… I was the fun babysitter and older cousin. But with my own kids the creativity has run dry.. I blame lack of sleep.. but I will totally try harder! Thanks for this post!

    • WWGD permalink*
      November 30, 2012

      Lack of sleep…yes! That must be it 😉

  2. liz duncan permalink
    November 28, 2012

    I don’t have my own kids, so I don’t know what it’s like to put aside work and other responsibilities to play with my kids, but I used to be a Nanny. “Playing” with kids doesn’t always sound like a good time, especially when you have things to get done. When I worked as a Nanny it forced me to play with the kids, which ended up being a good thing. I knew I had to “play” with them because that was part of my job, but once I started doing it, I actually had a good time and found out that kids are ridiculously amazing. Even other people’s kids:)

  3. November 28, 2012

    Yes me too, I prefer to do any other activity with them other than play! I’d rather cook with them, take them to a cafe, go for a walk, to the park … well, you get picture. I have a friend who i samazing at playing with kids, she’d do it all day long if left to her own devices. I think each parent brings their own gifts to their kids, and it’s funny, I remember my mom for what she introduced me to by taking me to the theatre, the library, the movies, not for spending hours playing with me. And I don’t think that mattered actually, it probably taught me independence and the ability to amuse myself which have served me well as an adult. I say indulge in the things you love doing with your kids and don’t give yourself a hard time about things you don’t enjoy doing – what I DO know is that they will remember the things you loved doing with them irrespective of what they were.

  4. November 28, 2012

    I thought I was the only one!
    Great post!

  5. November 28, 2012

    dear parents, the thing is you are NOT suppose to “play” with your children.
    so feel good. I am a RIE nanny anyone knows about it? Anyway,at this point when your children, toddlers and up, ask you “to play” just make time sit down on the floor and show availability, and ask what would you like to play? and wait, and not to be to engaging just narrated everything you see her/ him doing, you may say “I see you are pulling the legos” or “I wonder what would you build this time?” don’t try to suggest the child what to build or what to do.
    In RIE we believe in giving the children, ever since they are infants, time for uninterrupted play, which means that we as adults, parents or nannies are present and available and let the child take the lead on what he/she is up to do, we provide toys appropriate for their age and then just let them be, we do not teach a child how to play or what to do with the objects. The inner self motivation and his/her curiosity is enough for a child to get lost in playing.
    I hope this make sense to you if you want to know more you can hit me on
    The LA Nanny Book in facebook 🙂

  6. Dave permalink
    November 29, 2012

    My wife just sent me this link because she also has a hard time playing with our children. From what I have seen it is fairly obvious that after about 10 minutes she finds it boring. For some reason I’ve always bee good with kids. I was a camp councillor in HS and College and before I had kids my niece and nephew would call me Uncle Jungle Gym. My trick, don’t treat them like small adults. They see the world in a completely different way than we do. Make them laugh! Things most adults would find completely inane, silly or even stupid, kids find incredibly funny and if hearing your child laugh-out-loud doesn’t make you smile you may have other issues.

    P.S. This notion that “you’re not supposed to play with your children” and everything needs to be some kind of learning or educational experience is absolutely ridiculous. It may be perfectly fine for a Teacher or Nanny but as a parent, if you really want to understand how your kids feel and think play with them not near them.

  7. November 29, 2012

    i think the most important thing about this is that it’s not about being “good” at playing (or anything else in parenting, for that matter). it’s about being available. it hadn’t even occurred to me that i find their play boring, but reading this, and thinking about how my husband plays with them, well…hmmm…i read, i craft, i cook, i do yoga (ok, so that’s play for them. totally), i shop…all sorts of entertaining stuff, but i definitely want to choose not to play with them. lots of good food for thought

  8. November 29, 2012

    This really made me think! I have three boys under the age of 6, and they only occasionally ask me to play… mostly because they are too busy playing with each other! I think some kinds of play are more fun than other kinds, and I have to agree with previous commenters that availability is more desirable than actual skill at playing! I love playing chase or tickle-monster with my boys or playing active games and occasionally board games, but generally I am just in the other room cooking, cleaning, doing dishes, laundry, etc. while they play on their own.

    Thanks for this post. And the tips are really useful! I guess my tip would be to let your kids know what kind of play you enjoy too, and they will be more likely to come to you for that kind of playing. That way, everyone is having fun!

  9. WWGD permalink*
    November 30, 2012

    So much great commentary on this one, thanks for sharing everyone! I think in the end how you choose to have fun or show love or spend time with your kids is definitely up to you (and them!). I know I have been paying more attention to my free time with my littles since reading this article and many of her findings came into play (pun intended). Once I got into it a little more, I had more fun and they got bored of me…quick. A win/win situation! 😉

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