"Will You Play With Me?" What to do When You Dread Playtime with Your Kids
Author: Afton Jones, LCSW, PMH-C
No doubt about it we love our little ones, but for some of us we don't always love playing with them. While this may initiate some feelings of guilt, it is not a bad thing to not feel like engaging in playtime every single time your child wants to play. Before I get into some tips about making playtime a more pleasant experience, let's discuss a few things that can interfere with you being able to enjoy playtime.
It's difficult to muster up the desire to engage in playtime when you're tired. Let's be real, it takes a lot of energy to be attentive and engaging with your child during playtime.
YOU'RE FEELING OVERWHELMED
When we are feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life it can be challenging to be present, enjoy the moment, and focus on anything other than the never ending to-do list in your mind.
For some of us we need time to settle when we are transitioning from one thing to another. Ex: coming home from a busy day at work or waking up from a night's rest. If your child is initiating playtime during a transition during your day you may feel less motivated to want to play.
It's not always fun to eat a pretend dinner, play telephone, or role play, especially multiple times throughout the day.
So now you might be asking yourself the big question: What do I do to work through these things so that I can stop dreading playtime?
Tip #1 - Let Go of Guilt
Saying no to playing every once in a while when you absolutely do not have the steam is not going to cause your child to resent you years later. Remind yourself about many times you have played or connected with them throughout the week.
Tip #2 - Find Activities You Both Enjoy
When we enjoy the play activity we are more likely to be fully present and less likely be distracted by thoughts of wanting to do something else or hoping that playtime will be over soon. Finding new activities to do can also help with the dread of doing the same activity over and over. Don't be afraid to switch it up!
A few of my go to activities are coloring and taking walks while my daughter rides her tricycle in the evening. I get to move my body, and enjoy being outside in the evening.
Tip #3 - Give What You Have/Time Limits
“Mommy will play with you for 10 minutes and then I will watch you build your castle”
“We can play one more round of hide and seek and then mommy and daddy are going to clean up the kitchen while you play with your stickers”
If all you’ve got to give is 10 minutes that is okay. There will be other times during the week for you to play longer.
Tip #4 - Encourage Sibling Play or Arrange Playdates
It’s important for kids to have playtime with other kids and it helps to give parents a play break (especially when children don’t have siblings).
Tip #5 - Limit Distractions
Try to limit being on your phone or tuned into the tv when you are playing with your little ones. They want our undivided attention and can feel when they do not have it.
Tip #6 Tag Your Partner In
Sometimes our littles ones like to pick a default play parent. If this is the case be intentional about getting your partner involved in play as well.
Tip #7 Not Right Now/Come Back to It
Maybe you need a moment to get dinner started or just some time to unwind after work. You can always make time at another time in a day when you are feeling up to it.
There will be some days when you just don't have the motivation to engage in playtime with your children. Remember that you are human and it is okay to have these feelings. Luckily there are ways to help cope with the lack of enjoyment related to playtime. Schedule the playdates, set time limits, find play activities that don't completely bore you, and most importantly give yourself GRACE.