I have a confession to make: I’m not that great at playing with little children.
In my late teens, I was a babysitter and a camp counselor. I could play Red Rover and London Bridge all afternoon. I invented games out of cardboard and a shoestring. I wasn’t amazingly creative, but I was decently engaging with little ones.Now that I have a 10, 4 and 2-year-old, I find it’s harder to play. My busy (thank you, ADHD) mind jumps to books I’d like to read or podcasts I have to catch up on. There is unending laundry to fold and a dishwasher to empty. The real truth be told: the chores and books aren’t going anywhere, but my kids are. They’ll be at their friends’ houses for dinner, or walking to the movies in 5 short years. I’ll blink and the time will pass.
So, this post is for all the parents who want to play but just haven’t done it in a while. It’s for any of us who are distracted, bombarded, or bowled over by adult life and have forgotten the magic of Red Light, Green Light.
Here are starter steps to get your brain engaged in play and make it a habit!
- Post a list of physical games with few to no materials needed somewhere accessible (fridge, entryway closet door). I like to make a visual to match so my little ones can point to the game they want to play, encouraging reading skills. The internet has TONS of resources, just google, “games for young children.”
- Schedule game time. Make it part of the evening routine. Maybe it’s right after homework, or before bath time. It doesn’t have to be longer than 10 minutes but play a game, every weekday, if you’re able.
- Let each child have a night that’s “her” choice. I have 3 children, plus Mami and Papi so we each get a night to pick the game. I like Hot and Cold so my eldest usually takes my phone to hide on Thursday nights. He loves to up the ante.
Implementing game time has increased family engagement at our house. It’s a simple “habit” to form because busy Mami and Papi don’t have to remember it! The children countdown to game time each night. On these evenings it’s loud because we’re laughing, chasing, and running through the house. No one is complaining. Well, unless the boys find the youngest, hiding and curled up with a Biscuit book. “L started reading and we couldn’t find her, Mami.” Now that’s a complaint I’d love to hear every night.