Play comes naturally to our kids and is necessary for their development, but as parents, it's too easy to be stressed, rushed, and tired. Last month, as I rushed bedtime, my girls sweetly asked, "Mom, why don't you ever play anymore?" I stopped what I was doing and thought about it. I have made and want to make a conscious effort to play more each day, and here are nine steps I implemented that have helped me become a more playful parent.
1. Start the Day with Play
Mornings in our house usually dictate how the rest of our day goes. In addition to adding a few calming morning routines to our schedule, I spend a few minutes playing. Sometimes, we color, build blocks, or dance. This short time connecting fills their love tank and makes getting out the door in the morning - and the rest of our day - smoother, albeit a little slower.
2. Break Up the Routine
Sometimes, we need spontaneity. That's why I bookmarked a few local community websites and mom's groups. When I see fun activities and events, like craft day at the library, park play groups, and special museum exhibits, I reserve our spots.
3. Shake it Out
When my girls can't sit still or start to feel grouchy, I turn on a catchy tune and announce, "Time to shake it out!" They know it's time to stand up and wiggle out any of their antsyness! We usually end up laughing as we wiggle, and that time of play makes all the bad energy disappear.
4. Turn Chores into Play Time
My girls often get cranky when I tell them it's time to clean up the playroom or tackle their laundry. We all hate the fussing, so now we sometimes play instead. We pretend the trash cans are hungry monsters, or we race to pick up the toys in five minutes. By turning chore time into play time, we have fun and accomplish a boring task.
5. Be Silly
Occasionally, my angels decide to fight and bicker. I used to yell, especially when I was tired or stressed, but that reaction only made the situation worse. Now, I use play as a tension diffuser, and it works! We play keep away with a toy my girls are fighting over or go outside for a game of tag. We've even been known to play tug of war, make silly faces at each other, or wrestle as we release tension and restore peace and joy to our attitudes and home.
6. Host a Picnic
Meal times can sometimes be difficult at my house, especially if my girls are feeling picky or tired. Picnics on the play room floor or in the yard work wonders. Whether we eat picnic foods or a traditional dinner, the meal instantly tastes better as we sit on an old blanket. The change of scenery helps us all relax as we chat and eat.
7. Play Active Video Games
When my girls earn video game time, I used to see that hour as a chance to catch up on housework, laundry, or paperwork. Instead, I jump in and join them more often. Playing active video games together burns off extra energy and helps us bond while we dance, bowl, or race. It also allows me to keep better track of the game content and how long they're playing.
8. Indulge in Fantasy
Pretend play grows my girls' creativity and is a fun way to get their attention or work through frustration. I like talking in an accent or using different voices as I mediate arguments or explain why we aren't eating ice cream for dinner. I also find that using a sports narrator's voice to describe the scenery during our carpool or pretending that the grocery store is a dragon's lair can make daily routines more enjoyable for all of us.
9. Schedule Play Time Each Day
It sounds clinical, but the best way for me to make sure I play daily is to schedule it! On our large family calendar in the kitchen, I wrote a different game on every day this week. Whether we jump rope, play cards, or shoot hoops together, my girls and I are committed to play and connect daily!
Becoming a more playful parent is challenging. It's easy to get stuck in a rut with stress, busyness, and tiredness, but my kids need me to play. I need to relax and unwind more often, too. These nine tips help me play more. Which ones will you try today?
Find more about the author: Kim Hart