One of my favorite things to do with my kids is hang out on our driveway. We moved to the town from the country, so a paved surface is kind of a novelty. They rumble around on bikes, scooters, and ride-on toys, while I sit with a coffee or tea at my bistro set. (Or plant myself at the mouth of the driveway as a human barrier between them and passing cars.)
For me, it’s a rare opportunity to soak up some warm sunshine while the short summer is here. I relish the chance to sit for a while and sip on something while enjoying the beauty of my children as they play. For them, it’s a chance to motor around together and have the full attention of a happy mom. A mom who is happy because, quite honestly, she is meeting her own needs while simultaneously meeting theirs.
This, I believe, is the true nature of play: it’s fun for everyone involved.
As a younger mom, I nearly wore myself out with all the “playing” I did with my son. I thought that I should do whatever he wanted when we spent time together, because he was the developing child and it was his needs that were most important.
To a point I still believe this. Sometimes as parents, we need to sacrifice our own desires to support our kids in their interests. (No, I don’t actually feel like playing Lego/trucks/Uno/fill-in-the-blank, but I’ll do it for you, because I love you and what you like is important to me.) However, if taken to the extreme, we defeat the very purpose of play. It’s supposed to be fun! For both parties. And let’s face it: they’re kids, and you’re not anymore. What is fun for them will not necessarily be fun for you.
I’ve also noticed that my mood really impacts my kids. My joy multiplies theirs, and their joy multiplies mine! Because of this, I’ve come to re-frame the way I think about playing. I now think of it as sharing joy.
When we have a chunk of time to spend together, I ask myself, “What could we do to have some fun?” For us, this may look like:
- Playing on the driveway, as I mentioned
- Walking or biking to a park
- Skating a few laps around the neighborhood rink (the little guy just slides around on his boots)
- Going tobogganning
- Cooking or baking something yummy together
- Heading to the dollar store and spending pocket change for a small toy, activity, or treat
- Doing a special, seasonal craft (e.g. making Christmas decorations or coloring Easter eggs)
None of these activities are a drag for me, because they are things that I actually enjoy too. When I structure our time in this way, a few neat things happen:
- I am more patient in dealing with the inevitable squabbles and behavior problems, because I’m in a decent mood myself.
- The kids learn that the wants and needs of other people matter too (the world doesn’t revolve around them, and that’s actually ok)!
- I have a chance to pass on my passions, and the kids learn from what I teach them.
- The kids experience things that are different from the usual play that would occur either on their own or with other children.
And you know what? In the middle of these activities, I often find myself spontaneously joining in on what the kids are doing. We’ll throw a ball back and forth, push a truck around, or dig in the sandbox. It is still about them and their needs. But because I haven’t sentenced myself to an hour of doing just that, I can do it cheerfully.
Quality time spent with your children is never wasted, but if it’s fun for you too, your children will feed off of the joy that you are sharing with them.
Do you like playing with your kids, or is it difficult? What kinds of things do you do together? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.