Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to Play: A Step-by-Step Guide for Grown-Ups

Lately my two boys have been staggering their naps. This unfortunately means less productive freelance work time for Mommy.  However, I have been trying to see the positive side of this, and make the most of my individual time playing with each of them.

 [While big brother naps, Toby ponders whether to play with his teething ring, or big brother's toy airplane]

This may sound funny to some, but in fact many parents have a hard time switching gears from their grown-up world and really PLAYING with their kids.  Play with your kids as much as you can, and I can almost guarantee that soon after you will...

- Smile.
- Laugh.
- Fall in love with your child all over again.
- Learn something new about your child.
- Be amazed that your child can do something you didn't even know they could do.
- Notice your little mirror reflecting the things you say and do during the day.

Here are 4 basic starting points to get you playing with your kids!

1) Lay down on the floor.  Whether you lie on your back or your belly, sometimes it really is just as simple as that.  My 1-year-old particularly loves this.  He'll crawl on me, bury his face in me, and play on and all around me with a huge perma-grin.  My 3-year-old will usually take this opportunity to instigate a wrestling session, or "doctor" me with his toy doctor kit.

 [Doctor Sammy & his assistant, Toby prescribing PLAY!]

There's just something about getting down on their level, and especially BELOW their level by letting them climb on your or making them fly like Superman on your feet.  Make them feel tall, and worth stopping your busy day for!  Also, try taking can get some great shots from down on their level!

[Just think about how awesome it is to FLY over the parents that you are normally having to strain your neck to look up to?!]

2) Say "YES."  When you have a few free moments in the day, make the decision to say "yes" to your child's questions that start with, "Mommy, wanna  ______?"  (unless of course it is illegal, would result in injuries, or contradicts your family's morals)  I am usually posed with questions like this all day long.  "Mommy, wanna play Legos with me?  Wanna play tag?  Wanna play hide and seek?  Wanna...." Most of the time I find myself saying, "Maybe later, Mommy has to _______ right now."  It's easy to get swept away with your to-do list, but if you can add "say yes to your kid's play request at least once" to your list and do this once a day, you won't regret it.

3) Play into their fantasies.  The pressure really comes off once you realize that you don't have to control or lead when it comes to play.  You don't need to achieve a list of goals, you have no time restrictions, and you don't have to follow an outline.  Relax and let your child's imagination lead you.  If your son turns the laundry basket into a boat, pretend to be the Loch Ness monster circling him.  If your daughter throws a tea party, invite yourself and share some imaginary conversation with the teddy bears and Barbie dolls.  A little imagination is good for everyone at any age! Having trouble getting some imagination going?  Put on some HATS! (or turn other stuff into hats!)

[who knew a plastic hard hat and a bendy straw could induce such smiles?!]

4) Be silly.  Sure, you may not want to practice your most realistic farting noises at a fancy restaurant, but try to let go of your inhibitions once in a while and be silly at home with your kids. While learning manners is of utmost importance to us, it's okay to teach your kids that there is a time and place for everything, including silliness!!

I get the best photos of the kids when I have my camera in hand while playing with them.  They are already naturally smiling because they are having fun, and I am able to capture some great shots of them doing what they love!  All of the photos in this post were taken yesterday while we played on the floor!

Okay, I've been typing way too long now.  Time to give in to Sammy's pleas to go play outside! (despite the below freezing temps!)  Now get down on the floor and have some FUN!

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