Are you a parent who doesn’t enjoy playing with children? At least, not in the imaginative, pretending sort of way? I’m certainly am! Many parents feel the same way and live with guilt about it. There is no need to feel ashamed- it’s the way we are, and that is just fine! We pretended when we were children, and now we’ve grown up, and it’s our children’s turn to play pretend.
Some people will think less of me for it, but I can’t do it. The times I’ve tried, I have hated every minute of it. If I were to force myself, I would not be a nice person to play with, and I would certainly not be a nicer parent for it! No, avoiding playing with my children means the time we do spend together is enjoyed by all.
Children are so smart. The last thing I want is for my child to feel that I dislike them in any way. I know if I were to force myself to engage in pretend play, they would pick up on my negative feelings about it. I don’t want to risk them thinking it is in anyway directed towards them.
So how do you spend time with children if you hate playing?
Make it a point to be with your children and do activities with them that you both enjoy! Just because you don’t like to participate in pretend-play, doesn’t mean you avoid spending time with your children. It does mean that you have to be more intentional about spending time with them. Often when kids play, they will invite you to join them… and if you don’t participate in their play, it will remind you to take time out to be with them doing something else. Plan quiet afternoons with nothing on the schedule so you can take time out and do things together.
You don’t always have to say “no” to your child, instead try redirecting: “You go ahead and play by yourself right now, let’s go for a walk together this afternoon.” This advice was given to me and has helped me from feeling like I’m always shutting my children down.
5 activities we enjoy together:
Do you enjoy board games and card games? If so, then it’s a great way to interact together! We start young, currently, our 2 year old is learning how to play UNO. We progress to Guess Who? and card games. As the kids get older, we play Monopoly, Risk, Sequence, and Settlers of Catan. When we get to the teen years we bring in the more difficult games: Sculptivity, Catch Phrase, Scrabble, and Rummikub. Monopoly is how my children have learned to count money and Risk has helped them ace geography quizzes. Through games, they have learned how to strategize, barter and persuade. And after they have learned how to play, we all enjoy playing together.
Puzzles are nice calm activities. Lay it out at the table, sort the pieces, build the edges and then work on sections until it’s complete. Working on puzzles is a beautiful way to tie together generations. The great-grandparents in my children’s lives, are no longer with us. But when they were, they often had a puzzle laid out on the table and when we visited, we would work on it together. Doing puzzles with my children reminds me of the time I spent with my grandparents, and my husband’s grandparents, the stories they told and different character traits they had. I end up telling stories as we work- stories from past generations, stories from my childhood and stories about my own children.
Many adults enjoy crafts and the kids are happy to jump in. Browse Pinterest for easy paper crafts and keep the supplies fairly minimal. We have paper, scissors, tape, glue, stickers and paint. Although I enjoy crafts, when I have splurged on miscellaneous supplies it just ends up all over the house. So I’ve paired down to the basics. We’ve done paper trees, snowflakes, lanterns, chains, buntings and various pictures to hang in our hinged frames. Sometimes I can even get the teens involved and making something with us, which is a super win!
I just recently discovered the wonderful coloring books for adults. My husband got me one for Christmas and I enjoyed sitting down to color in the evening. It didn’t take long before the kids would sit down with me, but their coloring books would frustrate them- most often, the ones they have received were activity books- with crossword puzzles and “complete the picture” pages. My book with animals and flowers was so much more appealing to them. I searched Amazon and the detail in the animal coloring books was so great, I had been hoping for one that would encourage them to use their imagination, but not frustrate them with tiny intricate patterns. Coming up short, I decided to make my own. I have enjoyed doodling and painting cute little creatures for many years, so I compiled my little animals friends into a coloring book: Simple Animals. The kids have been thrilled. They routinely sit down with me and color on pages. Keeping the pages simple (i.e. minimal) the kid’s creativity has exploded and it has been such a pleasure to watch. If you want to share the ones your children have colored- be sure to tag me on Instagram. 🙂
Sitting down to color with the kids has been so rewarding. I’ve been able to teach them shading techniques and encourage them to create their own patterns and designs. These are the colored pencils I recommend and here is a coloring book for moms. 😉
5. Outdoor activities
Does your family enjoy spending time in the outdoors? Then get out there and share with your children the wonder of nature. Not far from us are several large wilderness parks with walking/biking trails and fishing access. We’ve gone for drives in the country and had picnics in different places, we’ve been camping and fishing, hiking and wading (the fresh mountain spring water here is a little too cold to actually be fully immersed in!). We normally walk to the water, throw rocks, work on our stone skipping techniques, admire rocks and driftwood and then walk back to the parking lot. Closer to our house, we walk to the park, go for bike rides or have picnics in our yard.
These are all the things I do with my children instead of playing, but it’s not exhaustive by any means. We spend a lot of time together, and I am often reading with my children, we cook together and we clean together. Making sure that children have independent play is very important as well, so please parents, if you’re like me, and you really hate to “play” give yourself a break and invite your children to join you in an activity you can both enjoy.