Pretend play didn’t come naturally to me as a mom.
In fact, I’d even say I didn’t like to pretend play with my son most days. I’m naturally pretty serious and I’ve never been really good with young kids. I loved teaching 5th grade before becoming a mom, but those young preschoolers actually scared me a little bit!
So when my son got to be a toddler and wanted to play endless cars with me, it was hard. But I would force myself to push cars around the floor and make car noises out of guilt.
Other days, he would want me to do “yard work” with him. We would walk around the back yard pretending to mow and weed eat the grass.
After awhile of this, I started getting resentful when he would want me to play with him. When you are doing this day in and day out, it can really become tiresome.
If you are feeling the same way, I want you to know….
You’re not a bad mom.
Moms all have different strengths. Just because some moms love to play pretend with their kids and don’t get tired of dressing up or playing tea party, doesn’t make you worse. Don’t compare yourself to her. You are the perfect mom for your kids!
Instead, focus on the things that you do excel at as a mom and be grateful for those things. For me, I didn’t like pretending to mow the grass or make car noises, but I did like to build mega block towers and color pictures with him. So we started doing things that we both enjoyed doing.
You don’t have to only pretend play, you can….
Play other things.
Make a list of activities you can do with your child that you both enjoy doing together. This way you have a purpose to your playtime and aren’t having to come up with things to do.
Your ideas may be different than mine, but here are some activities you can do with your child.
15 Things to Play with Kids
- playdoh (we love using the sets*.)
- color a picture
- Simon Says
- build a block tower
- moon sand
- stickers on paper
- make cookies or muffins (measure out the ingredients ahead of time to make it easier)
- red light, green light
- bounce a balloon back and forth
- roll a ball to each other
- blow bubbles
- read a book
- do a kid’s workout on YouTube
- make funny faces with Instagram filters
Once you make your list, refer to it whenever your child wants to play with you. Because really your child doesn’t care much about what you do, as long as you are doing something with them. Here are more ideas for connecting with your kids every day.
As you play make sure you are focusing on…
Quality vs. Quantity.
Your kids want your attention and they want to know that you value the time you spend with them. You show that by the quality of time you give to them, not the amount of time you spend with them.
Let me break it down this way.
When I was sitting on the floor making car noises for 30 minutes with my son, I had a bad attitude. I sighed and kept checking the time to see how much time had gone by. I felt like I needed to pretend play with him for a certain amount of time to clear my conscience, so that I could say I had played with him.
However, when I stopped putting time restraints on our play time, and instead just did an activity with him, I was much more engaged and present while we played. We colored a page together or played hide-n-seek a few times.
When you are playing with your kids, make sure you are being intentional about being present with them.
Don’t worry about the amount of time.
Don’t check your phone.
Don’t think about all the laundry that needs folded.
Just be in the moment.
One last thing I want to encourage you to do is…
Give your child free time.
The only way your child will learn independent play is by playing on their own. Be sure to schedule time in your day where they get time to play by themselves. Of course, depending on your child’s age, you’ll probably have to supervise them, but let them know that they get to play by themselves for a little while.
I’ve found that my kids will engage more in independent play if there are fewer toys to choose from. Having a lot of toys is a bit overwhelming and kids don’t know what to do with them all. So pick 1-3 toys for your kids to have during independent play.
Instead of gritting your teeth just to pretend play with your kids, find an activity you can both do and focus on being present with the time you spend together. Also, remember to give your child time to play on their own.
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