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Playing with Your Children

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

On my day out of the pediatric office, I was able to catch up with one of my favorite daytime TV shows “The View”. The hot topic was a lively discussion about parents who are their children’s playmates.

The whole conversation started when Sherry discussed letting her son have a tantrum because she wouldn’t play a game with him while they were in an electronics store.  She had taken him with her while shopping for a computer cable and he wanted her to play a game. When she said no, he had what I term a “meltdown”.

I know we have all been there before!  But it really seems as if more and more parents are faced with the dilemma that their children think that their parents are their full time playmates.

I know as a working mother that I often “felt guilty” if I didn’t spend all of my “down time” playing with my children. But, as the boys got to be a little older, and I guess I got busier, I realized that my “job” as a parent was not to be their full time playmate. That is not to say that I didn’t play with them, I did.  And I also enjoyed every minute of it.

But the reality of any parent having the time or energy to play tea party or superhero, all day every day, quickly goes away for most parents.  Being a full time playmate leaves very little time for a parent to do the myriad other jobs that parenting requires.  In other words, there has to be a balance.

I think it is very important for parents to play with their children. That playing begins in infancy with just talking to your baby, which can actually be any sort of conversation. The best thing about a baby is that they just love to hear their parent’s voices, they don’t care what you are talking about. Enjoy this stage, as later on that precious infant will become an older child who probably tells you that your conversation is “boring”.

As your child gets older, playtime involves putting puzzles together, building blocks, playing house or playing with train sets.  This doesn’t need to be an all day long project. It is often appropriate to start the puzzle and then let your child have some time alone to work on the puzzle, or begin the train track and let them use their imagination to complete the track.

This kind of play takes practice and encouragement, as your child may continue to insist that you play for hours.  You as the parent can participate in play while at the same time teaching a child how to play independently. As a child gets older they can play for longer periods of time independently.

Older children need to have playtime with their parents too. Often parents with older children have to convince their children to “play”.  Family time playing board games, cards, or charades encourages children to stay involved with their families.  Family game night or movie night works for all ages of children and can become a weekly or biweekly event.  Put the date on the family calendar and make sure everyone attends. Staying engaged with older children is equally as important as it is when they are little.

Playing with your children is about balance.  Don’t be a constant playmate in the early years and remember to continue to play with your children as they get older.   It’s good for everyone!

What do you do for fun and games in your house? Would love to hear your comments!

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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One Response to “Playing with Your Children”

  1. Kristina says:

    Great article. I am mostly a stay at home mom (I work two days per week). I often feel guilty for not playing for hours & hours & hours!!!!!! I DO need to teach my 2.5 y/o a little more independence. When we go out on playdates, he wants to play only with me!!!! So frustrating.

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