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Is Playing With Your Kids Work ?

Playing with your children creates some of the most wonderful and beautiful memories you will make as a parent. It is also one of the most exhausting things you will do.  When your kids are babies, it’s actually kind of easy. They are thoroughly entertained by the simplest of things like silly faces and shiny objects.

Playing with a baby involves you lying on the floor next to them during tummy time, or lying on the couch watching them across the room while they explore board books and toys. Notice the fact that in these examples, you, the parent, get to lie down while playing! That’s the dream! Well, okay, it’s not the dream, but it’s still pretty sweet.

As your children grow and are able to sit up on their own, you can sit on the floor with them (it’s not lying down, but you take what you can get) and roll a ball back and forth or play peek-a-boo. Then they start walking and you can chase them around, which is still easy because their run is about as fast as your saunter. It’s great. They have a blast and these seemingly low energy games tire them out like nothing else.

And then, something happens. That cute little run of theirs turns into a full-on sprint overnight, and simply rolling a little ball back and forth is no longer satisfying to them.

As their bodies grow, so do their imaginations. They cook you food out of thin air. They pretend to be dinosaurs, or firefighters, or princesses, and insist that you do the same. Then they start coming up with games that become more and more complex. But these games are not complex like something an adult of sound mind could comprehend. It’s more like a complexity that maybe someone in an insane asylum might be able to understand with ease. And no matter how young at heart you think you are, their games will always reach a point that is just too difficult for you to follow. All you can do is nod, smile, and do your best to play along.

So don’t feel bad if, when playing hide and seek with your kids, you find a really good place to hide where you know they won’t find you, and you might just be able to close your eyes for a few minutes. Or if they are the ones hiding and you only pretend to look for them while you check your email or lie down on the couch until they realize you’re not coming to find them.

If you’re playing catch with your little one, there’s no shame in tossing the ball a little to the left just enough that it goes past them and they have to run to get it. There is no reason you should feel guilty about stacking the deck in Candyland when your child isn’t looking so that they get the Ice Cream card, taking them all the way up to Snow Flake Lake and Princess Frostine, ensuring that they win the game in record time.

Don’t feel bad if you secretly hope that your kids actually fall asleep while they play “bedtime” instead of just pretending to fall asleep. Because sometimes, the thought of playing with your kids is going to make you want to scream. And that’s okay.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t play with your kids. Of course you should play with your kids. And I do play with mine; I’m not a monster! I’m just saying that you obviously can’t play with your kids every second of every day. Nor should you.

Children need to figure out how to play on their own. When they do, it helps their imaginations grow while giving you a few moments of peace and quiet. Unless, of course, you have more than one child. In this scenario, it helps in that they always have a playmate, but it rarely gives you any peace, and there is very little quiet.

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