Think playfully about play

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Play can sometimes be a tricky thing for us adults. Most of us are a bit out of practice. We also don’t necessarily enjoy exactly the same games and types of play that we did as children, or that our children are most into.

The idea that you should be your child’s constant playmate and provide entertainment all day long is a very recent one. And a silly one. That’s what we want to get away from at The Village – the notion that you parent alone, in an isolated bubble, handling all the emotional intensity, energy and practicalities as a small unit.

But our children do love spending time with us, and – particularly when they are younger – will ask us to play. So what can we do if you are experiencing reluctance, find it hard to engage or don’t see yourself as a playful person?

Below are just a few points to get you thinking, and maybe trying something new.

 

1. Let go of the guilt

If you do feel reluctant to say ‘yes’ when your child wants to play with you or even think ‘ugh’, please don’t scold yourself. There is too much pressure on parents to be making memories and cherishing every moment. Lots of the moments are rubbish or just mundane.

Some play activities that children find fascinating – and are good for their development – are boring (!) as they are simple and repetitive. I’ve often had to steel myself to play the part of Percy in a conversation with Thomas about going to the seaside for the millionth time.

Sometimes we are busy and do have to get on with the tasks that keep everyone fed and cleanish. Annoying for us, tricky for kids to understand sometimes, but a fact of life.

So try and simply let go of the guilt you may feel for not throwing yourself enthusiastically into the game every time your child asks. Easier said than done, I know.

 

2. Ooh aah just a little bit

This has really helped me. When I’m knackered, have stuff to do, or the game isn’t my top fave, I decide to do it for a short time. I can generally muster up some energy for 15 minutes of whatever it is.

Every little helps, and your child will appreciate hearing a ‘yes’. You can tell them that’s how long you’ll play for and then just do your best to go for it during that time.

If you have something you need to move on to, like cooking dinner, you can start the play in/near the kitchen (if you have space) so your child can carry on when you go, near enough to feel close to you and to chat about what they are doing if they want.

 

3. Meet in the middle

It will definitely be fun for everyone if you can find something you both enjoy. We’ve been doing lots of jigsaw puzzles recently, which I have loved. I haven’t done a grown-up puzzle for ages so I can get a little hit from a Paw Patrol 20 piecer and get the joy of introducing my son to something I like doing.

Start with things you know you like now, and things you liked as a child. Try out lots of different things without expectation to see what fits. Are you a building partnership, a gang of fairies, a rough-and-tumble duo or an artistic team?

I’m sure it won’t mean you never have to do the games you do find dull, but at least you’ll have some golden suggestions always in your back pocket.

 

4. Be playful with play

I feel a bit guilty and uncreative – especially after seeing the LEGO Movie – but I actually love following instructions to build LEGO sets. We still have fun doing it – at the moment he finds the pieces, I build – but I know we need to follow our imaginations to be Master Builders! So we build things of our own design and also sometimes just start building without knowing what it’s going to be.

Try letting go of expectations and playfully exploring. It’s freeing. Start stacking blocks without a plan, prod the play dough and see what happens, experiment with different objects as paintbrushes instead of setting out to paint a picture.

You will show your child that it’s fun and normal to give things ago, make mistakes and try out ideas, which is vital for learning. And hopefully will give you a ‘yay’ instead of an ‘ugh’ when it’s time to play.

 


 

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