To Play or Not to Play, That is My Question

How much should I play with my kids?

I ask because quite frankly, I don’t like to play. I’d rather be teaching, reading or creating with them. Not playing My Little Ponies or pretending to be my four year old’s baby or pet or evil mother.

So it got me thinking… I think I might be part of the first generation of parents who feel the need to play with their kids.

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I don’t remember my parents playing with me that often, but maybe they did before I entered school and started playing with friends. My parents tell stories of how they went out to play for hours with their neighborhood friends. They weren’t entertained by their parents. “Just be home for dinner” was a common phrase they heard. Most of my grandparents worked on farms with their parents and I doubt there was much time for play with adults then. Generations before that were probably similar. Kids were put to work at an early age and when they did have free time, they needed to entertain themselves because adults had work to do.

Obviously a lot has changed in our world since then. Most of us don’t live on farms and we don’t need put our children to work ASAP. BUT as a society we’ve become self-centered, inconsiderate and we just don’t show the same respect for authority as previous generations did. Maybe playing with our children puts us in more of the friend category instead of the adult they need to respect category. There are many parents today who want to be their child’s friend before their parent…but that could be a post all on it’s own.

Our children today also have difficulty staying focused for extended periods of time and I think independent and peer free play is needed in order to develop and keep that focus. If we as parents are always giving them the ideas for play or directing the play, maybe we’re hindering that ability to focus, not to mention we’re not allowing their creativity and imagination to grow to it’s full potential.

Maybe all of this is just a way to justify my not wanting to play with my kids. I can just tell myself society was better off “back in the day” when we let kids be kids who played and ran free so that I can have more guilt-free me time.

But then again, I really think it has some connection to how children interact with those around them and how they’ll act in the future. I think it’s important that my girls play without me for a portion of each day…to see me work and clean and keep up the home or enjoying my hobbies while they imagine some grand adventure. They need to see adults in adult roles and I need to be a model for them. It’s not like I ignore my girls all day. I read to them, teach them, snuggle and sing….I share meals with them and we take walks outside, run errands and go on outings. There are plenty of things we can do together that aren’t “playing”.

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Now if I could just convince them to get along and actually play together. Right now they mostly whine and shout for me when I leave the room. Once they get along I’ll be able to see if this theory of mine works.


DISCLAIMER: I do play with my girls a little each day even though it’s my least favorite thing to do (again, I’d rather teach or create). I’m working on having a better attitude about it so I can enjoy it more and I realize they’ll look to me for imaginary play less and less as they make school friends to play with.

One comment on “To Play or Not to Play, That is My Question

  1. Marian Kamlin says:

    Oh, this sounds so familiar, Rachel! I often felt guilty for resenting my play-time with Leila. If I did something she liked, she wanted that same thing over and over again. At some point, I realized that I could often get her started on something as a shared activity for about 10 minutes, and then she would be willing to continue on her own, and that did help a fair amount. She’s still an only child at 14 now, but she entertains herself so well now that I’m at the point of feeling guilty for allowing her to do that so much!