There’s no denying that children spell love T-I-M-E. While there is infinite value in sitting on the floor, playing an imagination game with your child, we all know that there’s very little time in an adult’s day for play. We work, make dinner, get the kids bathed, do the fifth load of laundry for the day, make sure there’s groceries – the list goes on.
Are you more likely to sit down and teach math or literacy concepts, rather than play? Probably – because these academic skills are rule based and measurable. Play is just as (if not more) valuable to the learning your young child is experiencing, but the reason it’s so difficult is because play is unstructured. Play asks more of your imagination than you’re willing to give. Play for adults is… boring.
How can we learn to enjoy and value playtime with kids?
(1) Acknowledge within yourself that you don’t like it
What don’t you like? Do your kids get stuck on a game that is uncomfortable or totally uninteresting to you? Are they super into playing with imaginary weapons, and you don’t know how to react to that? Are they really into making their toys talk, and you just can’t think of anything good to say while in the role of a Barbie? Identify it.
(2) Balance boundaries and creative liberty
Maybe you decide that gun games are off limits for play time with you, or that you won’t play on the structure at the playground if other kids are around. It’s OK to have personal boundaries – but try to limit how much your personal preferences impact the play time. For a few minutes, stop taking yourself so seriously and let your kids’ ideas lead the way.
(3) Agree on a time limit
If you’re pressed for time (or can’t handle pretending that you love playing for long periods of time) put 10 minutes on your phone timer. Have the timer visible to yourself and the kids, as well as setting an audible alarm so they will know that they have a sense of an actual end to your involvement.
(4) Play time is play time
No checking Facebook. No texting. Don’t even think about taking a photo of yourself playing something with your child, writing a caption about how you are playing together and then spending the entire time choosing a filter. Don’t do that, guys. Be present.
(5) Play on the regular
Once a day for 10 minutes? Once a week for 10 minutes of focused play per child? What can you do? Like anything, the more you do it the easier it becomes.