Playful Parenting: Bringing Play to Every Day

Playful Parenting: Bringing Play to Every Day

As a single parent, I struggle to find alone time. I love my kids, but when we’re home, they demand my constant attention (or a screen). What are your tips/strategies for helping kids find ways to play without me participating or needing to spend time setting up some elaborate game or craft?

Katy Smith

Katy is a parent educator and early childhood teacher. She has spent thirty years in classrooms, big and small, as a parent educator, supporting parents in the journey of raising their children. She is also the 2011 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

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Katy Smith: It’s natural to need alone time after a long day. To increase your odds of finding it, don’t underestimate the value of the “meet and greet”—the time after the workday, or after being at the gym or the store—when you temporarily put aside what you need and express to your kids, “I see you, I hear you and I’m delighted to be with you.” Maybe that means you take off your shoes, set your phone down and crash on the couch with them. That intentional connection feels like gold to kids. Sometimes it takes two minutes, sometimes it takes 15, but connecting is essential. When you don’t make time for it, they fight for it and nip at your heels. But when you do make time, they’re much more willing to give you the time you need for yourself.

After that, maybe kids just need to be in the same room with you. That’s the time to pull out the playdough or put on music they enjoy. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do an activity with them–maybe they just need to be close to you. I’ve always found it helpful to have a sensory bin nearby–an old dish tray with something interesting in it like dry beans, sand or anything to give their play a little kick start.

Remember that kids circle in when they need something from us. When they feel disconnected, they’ll fight for that connection. But when they feel connected, they can let go.

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