Mommy Confession: I Don’t Like Playing With my Kids

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There. I said it. I’ve thought it numerous times. I’ve even mentioned it to my husband and a few friends in passing to see if anyone would take the bait and tell me they could relate, but now it’s out there for everyone to see. So, let me say it again:

I do NOT like playing with my kids.

Whew! It’s a bit liberating to announce and I have a feeling I’m not alone. {Who’s with me?!} 

My kids have toys and plenty of them. Some encourage self-play while others provide instant-gratification lights and sounds. Regardless of how many different types of toys we have, I still don’t find myself jumping for joy when my toddler asks, “Do you want to play with me, Mom?” In fact, I cringe a little each time he asks.

“What’s so bad about playing?” {…you might be wondering.} 

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the millions of tasks on my to-do list that keep interrupting my thoughts as I am sitting down “playing.” Or maybe it’s the fact that I just don’t enjoy doing the same thing over and over again that my son still finds amusing even after the 127th time. It really doesn’t matter why I don’t like it… I just don’t.

Yes, I’ve listened to the podcasts and read the books, so I KNOW how important playing is. The thing is, playing is different for everyone. What is fun for my 4-year-old doesn’t have to be fun for me. It doesn’t make me a bad mom when I really do not want to put together another LEGO set or race another Monster Truck or taste another fake cup of coffee. In fact, I think I am a darn good mom because I DO these things even though I don’t like them, and even though I would rather be tackling Laundry Mountain. {Strange, I know.}

Now don’t get me wrong: I love my boys with my entire heart and I love DOING things with them. It’s just in different ways. So, what does a not-a-fan-of-playing mama like myself does all day with her kids, let me tell you:

WE CREATE

We love arts and crafts. We have bins full of supplies. My toddler can get them out on his own, set up shop and get to work or we can do an organized artsy activity together. The best thing about arts and crafts time is that my toddler usually opens up and talks to me about all sorts of things while we are creating… funny stories, hopes, dreams, ideas, etc. It’s so rewarding to spend this time with him!

create with art
Here he created a house for his Woolly Bear caterpillar all on his own.

WE BAKE OR COOK

We all have to eat, right?! So whenever possible, I involve my oldest. {The baby is only 7-months-old, so he’s pretty much the opposite of helpful. His role can best be described as a protesting audience member of our own little cooking show.} Having my boys in the kitchen not only teaches them basic skills, but it also keeps them busy and allows them to actively contribute to the family.

cooking and baking
Kitchen helpers can be such fun! I just plan to not rush and to explain processes as we go, and encourage my son to do all that he can.

WE TEACH AND LEARN

We are a future homeschooling family, so I have started to build my stash with teaching tools like pattern blocks, dot paints, stickers, activity books, regular books, sensory bins and more. The activities I can create with these tools are all fun for my kids AND for me! {Okay, technically, we are playing with most of these activities… but in a more hands-on way that entertains ALL of us.} And as a bonus, my oldest son is starting to enjoy teaching his baby brother, which is pretty sweet to witness.   

teach and learn
Pattern blocks are a staple in our house. You can print out freebies from Pinterest for creating pictures, use them for counting, sorting or building, and just let the kids play with them however they want.

WE GO ON OUTINGS

Whether it just be to explore the backyard, to browse the aisles at Target, to our local Farmers’ Markets and orchards, or something extra special like the Children’s Museum, getting out of the house can be a fun bonding experience for all of us that encourages play in a freer sense. We don’t always have to “go” and “do,” but when we do, we make the most of it by looking for new landmarks, trying new activities, tasting new foods, and creating our own adventures. 

get outside
Outside time is always a winner in our home. It gives us all fresh air, encourages exploration, and allows me to be active with the boys, while still encouraging play and learning.

I ENCOURAGE SELF-PLAY

I had to learn this quickly when we had our second child. I don’t have to say “yes” every time my oldest asks me to play, and the truth is, I physically can’t half the time. Despite my personal detest for play-time, I think this concept was harder for me to grasp than for my toddler because… mom guilt. We have survived the new baby stage and having toys around such as wooden blocks, Play-Doh, puzzles, Duplos, MagnaTiles, and fort-building odds and ends has really saved us all. Self-play has allowed me to spend some one-on-one with the baby, and it has helped my toddler learn how to entertain himself and to really use his imagination.

self-play with blocks
My oldest uses these blocks to make towers, robots, castles and anything his little mind wants to make up in a day — and I don’t have to help him.

To reiterate, I fully understand that playing is essential for the growth and development of children and adults alike, and I welcome, even encourage, play in our home. Just don’t come at me with your action figures or Barbie dolls, okay?

Do you set your own playtime boundaries?

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