Confession: I’m not a mom that LOVES to play with my kids. I know this sounds awful, but let me explain. I love playing with my babies. I love holding them, smiling at them, talking to them, reading to them, taking them on walks, etc. But once I had a toddler that was particular about me playing what he wanted to play, I quickly realized that I didn’t like constantly playing toddler games. This has extended into the preschool years as well, with my kid doing more imaginary play. I thought I would like this type of play better, but since all he wants me to play are games part of pretend worlds I don’t know about……. It’s hard to stay engaged. 😂
At first the realization that I don’t like playing my kid’s games with him made me feel guilty, like I was a bad or lazy or selfish parent. But recently I decided that this thing about me isn’t bad, and that I’m probably not alone in it. I had to tell myself that I do a lot of things well in parenting, that I don’t have to be perfect in every little thing.
So for all you parents who feel the way I do about playing with toddlers and preschoolers, I’ve got your back. Here’s a list of ideas- things I truly enjoy doing with my kids, that are not the typical get-on-the-floor-and-play-trains:
- Read!!! Even try reading chapter books to your kid before you think he/she is at that level of reading comprehension. They may enjoy hearing the words and sentence flow.
- Go on a walk
- Go on a run (if you have a jogging stroller)
- Go to the library
- Go shopping, and let your kid help you pick things (this isn’t always fun… Usually it’s more likely to be fun when I have only one kid with me and/or it’s a short shopping trip)
- Go to a museum or zoo
- Have a playdate with a friend (where the kids AND parents can play 😊)
- Have a coloring session
- Bake cookies together
- Learn something new together, through books or YouTube videos about a certain topic (examples of topics: outer space, rainforest animals, semi trucks, bugs… Can you tell I have boys?? 😁)
- Have a dance party!
- Teach your kid how to throw a ball or kick a ball (Who says it’s Dad’s job to teach the kids how to play ball? In my family, I’ll probably be the one who spends more time teaching our kids how to play ball sports!)
- Let your kid help you with a household chore (they usually LOVE helping when they’re young, so why not take advantage of that?)
- Practice writing letters, numbers, and words together
- Snuggle on the couch and talk to your kid about the day he or she was born
See? You can still be a fun parent even if you don’t like playing trains or dress up or Play Doh! So don’t feel guilty, my friend. If you feel like you need to spend more time playing with your kid, consider setting a timer on your phone to remind you to play undistracted with him or her for 30 minutes – 1 hour each day. I think it is important to sometimes follow along with what our kids want to do. It shows them that we care about what they care about, simply because we love them.