Today’s blog post is submitted by our summer contributor, Nicole Kalita.
How often do you play with your kids? I mean, really play. Not just sit on the floor and let them play around you while you are distracted with thinking about the next item on your to-do list. Can you think of the last time you let them lead you into their imaginary world, convince you to play tag at the park, or had a contest to see who can swing higher? When was the last time you set aside your thoughts and just had fun with your kids?
This is not always an easy thing to do. As a stay at home/work at home mom, I often find myself physically sitting on the floor with my kids while I am plotting how I am going to get the next 5 items on my to-do list done and they are playing around me. This is not fair to my children and I am really missing out on something special when I am not mentally available while playing with my kids. I have found that I have to “schedule” it in. Put playing with the boys on that to-do list. If I could, I would play all day long. It’s fun! And I love spending time with my children. But I have to get my chores done around the house and I have deadlines that need to be met. I have found that if I give my children undivided attention and play with them in the morning, they are more understanding when I have to get my work done in the afternoon. If I don’t have play time scheduled into my day, I end up dealing more with extra whining, sibling rivalry, etc, and I end up getting less work done. It’s definitely worth setting aside a few minutes. The key to it, though, is being present in the play and keeping my mind from being distracted.
These focused play times are how memories are made. One of my favorite quotes is, “To be in your child’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” The Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) suggest parents use these tips while playing with their children:
- Let them take the lead during play. Wait, watch, listen, and then join in.
- Talk, talk, talk! Describe what your child is doing while you are playing together. However, try to avoid asking too many “learning questions”, such as, “what color is the car?”
- Encourage your child’s creativity and imagination. You may learn that some days cow say, “bah” not “moo”. A farm has dinosaurs instead of cows, chickens, and horses. You never know what you’ll learn.
- Watch for cues that your child might be losing interest.
- Avoid power struggles.
- Last, but not least, HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
For more tips on playing with your children read “Make the Most of Playtime”. But first, go have some fun with your children!
Nicole Kalita is a mother of two young boys. She has a degree in Human Development and Family Sciences and has been working with families for 11 years. During the school year she teaches the Live & Learn classes in Albany, Oregon through Linn-Benton Community College.