As adults we have so many responsibilities, from our jobs to cooking and cleaning at home to tending to the children, that we tend to focus our attention on only those things. So when it comes time to play with our kids, we are in Responsible-Adult-Mode. This limits our creativity, imagination, energy, and ability to laugh and fully engage in play with our kids. For children though, play is how they learn the best.
Play is often associated with children and to adults it can seem like wasted time. However, play is some of the most important work your children can do. Play is their full time job, and as their parents you are their best teacher. Being able to join them on their terms, and in their environment, makes their play more meaningful; the connection you build with your children during play is even stronger.
For many adults, play with their children can be awkward or hard. As we get older we have more responsibilities and less time to play. We may not have actually played for several years, or see any value in it. Other adults may feel silly singing kids songs and running around the room like animals. The thing is that by joining your children in play, by saying “come play” versus “go play,” you are opening up an entirely new world.
For me, play is also the best way to get my children to listen! I try to connect first. Observe them. What are they doing? What are they playing?
A good example is if you are trying to get your children to have lunch, and calling to them over and over is not working. Maybe your children are playing racecars and zooming around the room – how could you let your inner child out? Join in the race. Find the right opportunity to enter your car into the race, and playfully be a losing, yet competitive race car. After a few laps, when you are all laughing and tired, pretend to be the commentator and call all cars to take a pit stop and refuel. This gives you the opportunity to join your children’s play, then redirect them to the table to have lunch and refuel before heading back out on the track.
Not only have you let your inner child out and connected with them as a competing race car, but you have also enhanced their depth of play and learning. Through practice we can all get better at playing with our kids and letting our inner child out!
For more ideas on how to join your kids in play, see the following books. We have them on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus if you’d like to take a look next time you drop by!
Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen
The Art of Roughhousing by Lawrence J. Cohen
The Edmonton C.O.W. bus schedule is here