Actually playing with your kids seems like it would be a simple. But for me, it is hard. Really hard. Even before I became pregnant with our third, I found it very hard to get down on the floor with my 2 and 3 year old and actually let them lead the way in play. How is it so easy for my husband to get home from work and throw himself into play with the two rascals? I may have it figured out. Men cannot multitask. Which means, they are able to totally free themselves of the tasks that need to be done, or the bills that need to be paid, etc. Completely unfair. My mind is constantly prioritizing, and listing things that need to be done, or should be done, how long it will take, and how to make it happen.
Therefore, it is my goal this year to play more with my kids. Be a better “Monster” or train conductor. Sounds simple enough. But in order to do this, that means I have to make the effort and decision to do it! Traditionally, my method of “playing” with them was getting a craft ready for them to do, or ask them if they want to bake or cook something with me. But I find it really hard to get down on their level, and let them decide what we are going to do. I always want to take the lead and direct them on how it should be. I know it isn’t right; I know I should let their creativity come to the surface and direct us – but I have things to do, right?!
Is anyone else thinking this could be them?
What is a Mom to do?
Work at it. Make the decision. Be the mom I want to be.
Well, here a few steps to get us started:
1. Decide what activities don’t frustrate you. This is very important, because if you are frustrated, you won’t play as often or with a positive attitude. Some activities I have decided on are: playing board games (or a select few that I like), cars and tractors (this is hard, but they usually direct me pretty well), pretend games (name an animal to act like, etc.), physical tasks (yoga poses, run across the room, jump on one foot, shake the sillies out, do a crazy dance, etc.), doing craft projects with them (painting, drawing, playdough). Give the kids a choice, and go with it. I know the list isn’t too long, but I am in my last month of pregnancy, and can’t really get down on the floor without having a really sore back afterwards. I intend to expand the list after the newborn settles in, and I get more sleep!
2. Schedule time for intended play. Yes, I know, scheduling play seems so wrong. But I find that if I pick a time during the day, it makes it so much easier to stick to my goal. For me, my best time is in the morning or early afternoon; before lunch and naptime. This makes it so usually no one is grumpy or tired or hungry.
3. Set an amount of time you would like to play for. If it is easier, set up a goal of 2-3 fifteen minute sessions a day. This breaks up any negative feelings or the need to multitask. The kids may actually like this better; for it may make them feel they get to play with you more. Soon, you may not even need a time allotment, because you will be lost in play with your little ones. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I assure you, I expect it to happen.
4. Forget about the “other” tasks on your plate. This will be the hardest one; I guarantee. It takes practice; gently remind yourself that you and your kids deserve this time together. They won’t remember all the bills you pay, or dishes you did. But they will remember the time they spent with their mom.
This is just a jumping off point. Let your kids help you decide what kind of activities you should do, or at least suggest some. You never know what they are going to come up with. And they may surprise you. Find what works for you and what you enjoy doing with your children. Some activities may prove to be a hit, and some may be a major flop. Experiment.
Here is a fun game that was given to us for Christmas by my dear friend and neighbor, Jill. She is a mother of three active kids, and knows how to play. This game is easy to make, and really easy to throw yourself into and use your (and your children’s) creativity.
The Random Fun Game
Printer and printer ink (optional)
First, cut the cardstock into card size. You can make as many or as few as you want, and the size really doesn’t matter. But for instructions sake, I will give the size of 3×5 inches.
Use some creative thinking and make a list of possibilities. Some of ours say: Shake the sillies out; act like a puppy; do a bear crawl; be really quiet; stand on your head; walk backwards; etc. These can obviously be more or less advanced, depending on the age of your children.
One option is type these up on your computer, cut out the prints, and glue to the cardstock. Or you could write your phrase right onto the cardstock.
Mix up the cards and let your children take turns picking them and doing the activities until they are all gone.
Make sure to get in on the action too.
Keep in a plastic baggy, make a little bag out of fabric, or use a rubber band. Whatever works! This game is also a great (frugal) gift, that will be enjoyed by the masses!
Brooke Gustafson is a SAHM of two (probably 3 at publication) busy little bees. Her and her family live in beautiful NW Montana, as a United States Air Force family. Her and her family enjoy the great outdoors as often as possible, especially during camping season. She also enjoys many other activities such as sewing, knitting, reading baking and blogging.
Project photography by Brooke Gustafson and Heather Fontenot