“MUM! Let’s play chasey.”
“MUM! Jump on the trampoline with me!”
“MUM! If you don’t play hide and seek, you can never have coffee again.”
“MUM! I’ll pretend I’m a cat, and you pretend you’re mum.”
Sometimes, I just don’t want to play. Scratch that, about 98% of the time, I don’t want to play!
Every day, usually multiple times, my six-year-old daughter demands I play some kind of (often baffling) game with her, and all I want to do is stamp my feet and cry, “I DON’T WANT TO!”
Apart from the fact this is not exactly setting a good example of adult behaviour, my daughter is an only child. There is no one else at home to play with. And in this day and age of hectic schedules, trying to organise a play date with a classmate requires about six months of planning.
There are plenty of reasons why parents should let their kids play on their own. It fosters their independence. It allows their creativity to come to the fore. They acquire problem-solving skills. They learn to cope with and combat boredom.
Also, there are only so many minutes in a day I can pretend I’m a robot dog without completely losing the plot!
But I also know there are plenty of reasons why playing with my daughter is good for her – and me.
Here are three reasons why playing, even when we don’t want to, is important for parents and kids:
As I mentioned, my daughter is an only child. Sometimes, siblings live in different households, or our kids don’t have any other kids nearby to play with. Kids can get lonely, too. Throwing a ball to one’s self is no fun. Playing with your child doesn’t mean you’ll be their play mate forever, but in the meantime, they’ll appreciate having someone to play catch with every now and then.
We may not realise it, but our kids are always watching us. They also imitate us. When we play with our kids, we show them the joy that can be found in physical activity, and how important being active is throughout our lives. By doing someone for someone else (like playing even when we’d rather be reading a book), by getting off the couch to be active, and by role modelling positive behaviour during sporting activities and imaginary games, we set them up for healthy behaviours for life.
Playing brings us closer to our kids. When we set aside our never-ending to-do lists to have a bit of fun, to be silly, to give our kids our full attention and enter their world even just for half an hour, the joy it brings them is priceless. We create memories we both can share and hold on to forever.
Grown-ups need grown up time – kids need to know that. But we grown-ups also need to keep in mind that sometimes, our kids need our time. And when playing with our kids seems like a chore (believe me, I get that!), remember, there will come a day when our kids won’t want to play with us so much. And we’ll miss it.
Written by Lauren from Full Stop Publishing.
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