As a play therapist, I get questioned by parents all the time about how they can play with their kids. Sometimes as adults, we run out of ideas or are just too busy and let our kids entertain themselves. There's nothing wrong with allowing your kids to play alone or with other children, but when they come to you specifically and ask to play, they are really asking for your love and attention in those moments. Taking a few minutes out of your day to play with your son or daughter will teach them they are important and valued and they will respect you more as a parent.
Here are some ideas on how you can play with your kids and show them you love them in a language they understand (as well as parent and teach them in the process):
Follow their lead! Most of the time, kids already have an idea of what and how they want to play with you. Let them take charge (as long as it's not something dangerous) and follow along in their play. This allows them to feel like they have a voice and they will learn to trust you more because you've trusted them.
Playing standard board games or card games can be fun ways to interact as well as provide teaching moments about taking turns, fairness, and following rules. During these games, you can also ask your kids about their day, any wishes or hopes they have, or any troubles they might be facing. When they are engaged in play, it will be more likely they talk to you.
Doing collaborative art projects do not have to be difficult or time-consuming. Try making greeting cards for other family members together to show how much you appreciate one another. The more you show each family member you care about them, the more they will show the same in return. This is especially true for children!
While playing with your kids, always encourage them to try doing things on their own. This empowers them to try new things and not depend on you to enable them into helplessness. Reassure them that you will be there to help if they ask for it, but don't always offer it immediately if you see them struggling at first.
Take an interest in their play. It may not be your cup of tea to play outside in the dirt or let them perform "makeovers" on you, but by showing them that you're at least willing to take part in what they choose to do, you are showing them love and appreciation through your actions.
Put together puzzles, play Mad Libs, do word searches, perform kid-friendly science experiments, or other activities that get their brains going. By accessing these parts of their minds, you'll foster a thinking child with anaylical skills and deductive reasoning. It is likely they'll turn to you for answers in this type of play. Instead of answering, turn it around and ask them, "What do you think?" and allow them to answer you without correction or judgement of their answer. Challenging them to think for themselves is empowering for children and necessary to become a responsible adolescent, teen, and adult.
These are just a few ideas to get you started in playing with your kids in a way that will be fun for everyone as well as provide valuable teaching and parenting opportunities. By putting some of these practices into play (yes, pun intended), your kids will begin to respect and listen to you more. Remember that consistency is key with children and making play a regular part of your interactions is crucial to developing your relationship with them.
What are some ways you've found to play with your kids that have created a better relationship between your family members? Comment below with your favorite play activity to be featured on one of my daily Facebook posts.
Now, go play!