How to enjoy playing with your kids

Do you struggle with actually WANTING to play with your kids? These three keys for how to enjoy playing with your kids will help you ditch the guilt and strengthen your family.Do you struggle with actually WANTING to play with your kids? These three keys for how to enjoy playtime with your kids will help you ditch the guilt and strengthen your family.

Confession: sometimes I don’t want to play with my kids. I have one child who can happily entertain himself for long periods of time, and one who is constantly begging me to play with him.

I want to be an involved mom. I want to make beautiful memories with my kids. I know these days will fly by and be gone before I know it. But sometimes I CAN NOT stand the thought of acting out Paw Patrol one more time.

How do we reconcile the two? How do I actually enjoy playing with my kids without feeling like my brain is turning to mush?

3 Keys for how to enjoy playing with your kids:

1. Schedule it.

For better or worse, I am a goal-driven, task-oriented person who likes to cross things off my to-do list each day. The problem with this mentality and motherhood is that I cannot check off “raised my child” at the end of the day. I know that the love and attention I give to my boys is SO important (it’s why I chose to be a stay-at-home mom in the first place), but sometimes a morning spent playing with blocks and re-enacting Mario Kart races in the basement with tricycles leaves me feeling less than productive.

So, if I can’t “accomplish” the big goal of raising happy healthy humans in one day, what can I cross off? I can cross off doing the laundry, running errands, making crafts, etc. In my need to feel productive, I sometimes neglect to give my boys the attention they need and deserve.

It’s all a balancing act, right? It’s important to do the cooking and cleaning, too. However, awhile ago I started to set aside a few chunks of time each day to be really actively involved in playing with my kids. We do “mommy school” in the morning, and I also set aside some time in the afternoon to play. There is no magic number (at least not that I know about). Just pick a block of time (or two or three) each day where you will focus on your kids.

Blocking out the time each day to play makes it more deliberate, and it becomes a choice I make to invest in my children. It also allows me the mental freedom to block out times for other things at other times, like exercise or cleaning, without feeling neglectful. When the time is set aside for the purpose of intentional play, I am more present with my kids, and I enjoy it more.

2. Put down your phone.

This is essential. During your set aside play time, PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE. And not right next to you. Set it down across the room, or in another room all together. Ugh, how many times have I sabotaged play time with my kids by “just checking one thing really quick” on my phone that turned into too much time passing where I half-heartedly played while scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest.

“Mmm, hmm.”

Scroll.

“Yeah, buddy. I like your tower.”

Pinned!

 “Just a minute. Mommy’s looking at something.”

Like.

No more. A month or so ago, I made the conscious decision to set my phone OUT of reach for more hours each day. It turns out that social media is really not going to fulfill your need for connection with the outside world. I get it. By four o’clock most days I am DONE playing mommy. I’m tired. I’ve been around little people all day, and I could desperately use some adult conversation. But I started to realize that I was turning to my phone as an escape far too often, and that I wasn’t feeling any more fulfilled after scrolling through who-knows-what on my phone than I felt before.

Now, I do have to admit that I started setting my phone down mostly because my phone’s battery has been dying all the time, so I have to plug it in two or more times a day or it dies on me in the middle of the grocery store. However, that stupid battery has become a huge blessing to me because it opened my eyes to the reality of my phone addiction.

Before I got a smart phone 4 years ago, I didn’t even WANT one. I was proud of my low-tech phone. And now I can’t live without it?

Actually, I can. At least for a few hours each day, I can. We all can.

We can hear the ding of a notification and let it wait while we finish one more game of Go Fish.

We can look up that “one quick thing” after we’re done measuring how many Legos tall our kids are.

We can liberate ourselves from the itch to check phones and instead become more engaged in real life.

Keep in mind, it’s not just about giving our kids the attention they want. I’ve realized that once I put down my phone and really participate in playing with my boys, I enjoy playing with them more. I see more of the funny things they do, I notice more of their weird comments, and laugh more at their crazy antics. There are still sibling quarrels to referee and tantrums to deal with. However, in between the less-than-pleasant parts of daily mothering, when I’m present, I catch sight of more of the beautiful moments that otherwise slip quietly past, completely unnoticed.

Find common ground.

I know, finding common ground with a two-year-old can be tricky. Our goals and priorities are not exactly aligned. However, I really believe that the final key to enjoying play time with your child is to treat your child like any other friend. Meaning, find something you both like to do. I think that moms sometimes have the mistaken idea that “good” or “loving” moms have to play whatever their child wants to do, but I believe it’s important to teach our kids that relationships are a two-way street. It’s not helpful for them to expect everyone else to cater to their every whim. I want my kids to know how to navigate friendships and “find a way to play together” (as Daniel Tiger would say).

Ask yourself, what do I enjoy doing with my kids?

There are lots of things I like doing with my boys. I could read books for hours. I like cooking. I think coloring is fun. I enjoy board games, going for walks, and working in the yard. We do a lot of those things because we ALL enjoy them.

That’s not to say that I never play things with my son that I don’t love. I think that sacrificing your own preferences to what you know another person would like is a way to show your love (like when I watch football with my husband).

For example, I loathe the game Chutes and Ladders (I rue the day I unwittingly bought it), but this morning, I agreed to play it. Little Man knows that I don’t love the game–I’ve told him on several occasions–but today I played it with him because he likes it. You know what he did? He was so surprised that I agreed to play that he gave me a big hug and thanked me for playing. He understood that it was something I did purely because I know it matters to him. If I agreed to play all the time, I would be grumpy and he wouldn’t appreciate the sacrifice. But, as is, it becomes a rare treat.

Just like with deliberately choosing to set aside time to play, you can choose whether to show a bit of extra love by doing an activity you don’t particularly enjoy or to look for something you can all truly enjoy. Whichever way you go, you will enjoy the activity more because you are actively choosing it, rather than just “giving in” or “surviving” one more hour.

I still don’t always jump up and down at the thought of spending 10-12 hours by myself with my kids all day. BUT…as I’ve taken more control over my relationship with my kids, and looked for ways to enjoy my time with them, I’ve been a happier, more fulfilled mom. I still have a long way to go…and I still forget to take my own advice some days. But, I’m seeing progress. And we’re all at least a little happier because of it.

What do YOU do to enjoy playing with your kids?

Do you struggle with actually WANTING to play with your kids? These three keys for how to enjoy playtime with your kids will help you ditch the guilt and strengthen your family.

Practical Ways to Stop Toddler Tantrums

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Ah, toddlerhood. When our little babies really begin to develop their own personalities and STRONG opinions about life. When they start to do things for themselves…and want to do EVERYTHING themselves.

I have a two-year-old right now who has a serious case of “I do it”-itis, and it’s equal parts hilarious and maddening. I think I’m mellowing out this second time through the “terrible twos” because I find myself laughing more often than screaming into a pillow. I still keep the pillows handy though. That’s progress, right? Continue reading

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Disclaimer: This post is completely unsponsored; however, I have included affiliate links to the products mentioned. As always, feel free to shop around for the best deals. See my full disclosure here.

Little Man has been a big fan of playing games for over a year now. He goes through phases where he wants to play the same game over and over, until I have to hide it somewhere to save my sanity (just kidding, I would never do that…maybe).

Lately his obsession has been with alphabet go fish, which he got for Christmas. It’s a great little game really, or at least it was the first 200 times we played it. But last week I just couldn’t handle it anymore. So, I created a new game that I hoped he would like enough to give me a break from going fishing for a few days at least.

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Remember way back before you had kids and you could sit down to a pleasant meal and enjoy intelligent conversation with that amazing guy you married? Remember when you could take your time to eating without someone wanting food off your plate, when you had both hands free to eat, and when you didn’t spend half of dinner time making airplane noises?

I know, that memory is starting to get fuzzy and dim, right? Continue reading

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Little Man keeps asking me when it’s going to be summer again, and I hate having to tell him that we’ve still got several months of snow before we can break out the shorts and flip flops again.  Continue reading

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In many ways, my perfectionism has served me well in life. I was always a good student in school, I had a successful career as a teacher, and I have a box of certificates and plaques for countless hours spent trying to produce the best possible work in any situation. Continue reading

Indoor activities to get kids moving in winter

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I should probably disclose right from the start that our house does NOT have a “no running” rule. If you feel strongly about that rule, some of these activities may not work for your family. However, come January when you’ve all been cooped up inside for a few months, you may reconsider. I know I did.

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Year in Review: Your Favorite Posts of 2016

 It’s been a busy year around The Many Little Joys. Here’s a recap of the most popular, favorite posts from 2016. Take a peek and find something to enjoy!It's been a busy year around The Many Little Joys. Here's a recap of the most popular posts from 2016. Take a peek and find something to enjoy!Happy New Year’s Eve! Are you off to a party, or are you celebrating at home at 9:00 and calling it good?

Sleep is probably going to win out for me, and I’m not likely to see the stroke of midnight. It’s not like the kids are going to sleep in for the holiday, right? Somebody’s gotta get up and make breakfast in the morning. I’m okay with that, though. Continue reading

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Disclaimer: This post is completely unsponsored; however, I have included affiliate links to the products mentioned. As always, feel free to shop around for the best deals. See my full disclosure here.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

I love this quote from C.S. Lewis. I have always loved picture books. During my years teaching middle school, I would regularly pull a picture book off my shelf and read it to my students to illustrate the use of imagery, voice, onomatopoeia, or whatever else we happened to be working on in our writing. Continue reading

Making goals without getting overwhelmed

The new year is a great time to reflect on what is going well and what you want to improve in your life, but it can be overwhelming to make goals that lead to real changes. Follow these tips to create a simple plan to keep you calm and motivated!The new year is a great time to reflect on what is going well and what you want to improve in your life, but it can be overwhelming to make goals that lead to real changes. Follow these tips to create a simple plan to keep you calm and motivated! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was quiet this year, which was nice. We got 6 inches of fresh snow on Christmas morning, and had a slow day of opening presents, going to church, and relaxing at home.

Now that Christmas is over, though, my thoughts are turning to the new year. I love making new year’s resolutions, and starting fresh with energy and optimism about the new year. However, I’ve learned over time that it’s important to be intentional and moderate about my resolutions. I used to make long lists of resolutions, broken down by category and each one with several bullet-pointed action items underneath it. It was great, while it lasted, but that’s not realistic for me right now. Continue reading