One of my friends recently confessed she felt guilty because she never played Playmobil with her son — whereas I, um, name all of our Playmobil figures and probably play it more than most children. But she is way better than me about playing games outside — I’m kind of a vampire when it comes to sun — and she also spends more time helping her son learn to print.
As parents, we all have different “styles” of playing with our kids — and all of them are equally good!
Some moms and dads seem to be full of energy. They’re always up for tickling, tackling, chasing, or kicking around a soccer ball. Kids definitely know which parent is up for this kind of hands-on fun. My husband can walk into a room and sit down, and suddenly both kids are throwing themselves onto him and demanding piggyback rides. They seem to (rightfully) sense that Mommy isn’t into that kind of play — it would just end with someone accidentally yanking my hair.
You want me to sit on the carpet surrounded by Playmobil figures and act out an elaborate camping scene? I’m your girl. I’ll also get very involved in orchestrating Barbie adventures, building LEGO houses, or playing out a complex cross-over story of the Polly Pockets meeting the Calico Critters. This is how I loved playing when I was a kid, so I’m still totally into it — but my husband has absolutely no idea what to make a little figurine say or do. He looks at me like I’m crazy when I start making a plastic horse totter around and organize a picnic in a high-pitched voice.
It’s a scientific fact that parents of young children are often exhausted. That’s why a lot of them enjoy spending low-key time with their kids. Watching movies or reading books, all cuddled under a blanket. Doing puzzles quietly at the kitchen table. Lying in a hammock looking up at the clouds together. I’m often too go-go-go to sit through a kiddie movie or show — and puzzles bore me! — but I love reading to my kids, if I like the book.
Long bike rides around the neighbourhood, exploring the woods, wading in the stream? Those are all stretches for me, honestly. I’m just not an outdoorsy person, so while I do take my kids outside to play daily, I don’t always enjoy it. They love playing outside, and I’m very glad they do. But it’s simply not my favourite way to spend time with them, and I’m OK with that.
Some parents dread the thought of giving their child access to paint — surely they get enough of that at daycare? — but I think it’s fun. I love seeing what they come up with when I give them glue, safety scissors, construction paper, and pom-poms. It’s not the tidiest way to play, but it’s so good for them to experiment with creating.
There’s no shortage of educational play ideas on Pinterest, and some parents love finding little activities or games they can do with their child during play-time. They turn block play into lessons on counting and colours, their kid is the first one to learn to write their name, they organize simple science projects, and they’ve tried every sensory activity on the internet. Being friends with these parents is a good way to determine which activities you should probably start doing.
If my kids and I have a few hours of free time — nowhere we need to go, no play-dates scheduled — I often suggest we do some baking. They love going through the steps of getting out the ingredients, following the recipe, and tasting the finished product. Yes, it’s messier and takes longer than if I just do it myself, but it’s something productive that we enjoy doing together. They also love to “wash dishes” afterwards, and the oldest is getting pretty good at it! Bonus!
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