Play With Your Child

This is a teaser post -- similar to what the 31 Days to Happier Children posts will be like. You won't want to miss them. ;) 
Come back every day during the month of October for more discussion about parenting happy children. Hope you'll join me! 

It might be the most-fought-over question of all time. Usually unspoken. Because it's sensitive.

Ready? I'll whisper:

How much time do you spend each day playing with your child?

Yes -- you. Playing with them. Whatever they are playing. Playing with dough. Banging pots and pans. Getting those puppets on your hand and faking a butterfly voice {I really did that today, yay me -- she had a very high, airy voice}.

Children need their parents to play with them.

And don't turn off the TV just yet, because I'm going to write Part Two tomorrow -- "Don't Play With Your Child".

Play doesn't come naturally to me. I grew up mostly alone -- no siblings, few long-term friends, busy parents. I read books, played with my pets, pretend played with my dolls and stuffed animals, and read some more. With adolescence came the desire to accomplish things, so things like practicing the piano and finishing my school workbooks before anyone else became my modus operandi. My personality enjoys focusing on the things that are real, not pretend. I like to create with words, not clay. Long story short -- playing with my kids, doing what they want to do, comes harder for me. It's a drain on my energy. 

But I feel so guilty when I don't.

Because children are so much happier when their parents play with them. You've seen the joy on their faces, you've heard their imploring voices pleading "mommy, come play with us!" They love it. And it's so beneficial to them. Why?

Because together play provides shared experience and memories that bond. For a four year old enjoying his mother's puppet show voices, there isn't much better. The twinkle in his eye is permanent, the giggles are endless.

Because together play builds a friendship that goes beyond authority figure role and submissive child. There's camaraderie, team-playing, partnership, cowboy cohorts bringin' in the cows. A child loves feeling like their mom or dad is also their friend. And it goes pretty far the next time discipline is necessary.

Because together play encourages creativity...when they see you modeling pretend play ideas, it gets them going. And going. And going. And then sometimes you can leave them to it... ;)

Because together play helps you get to know your child and may make you aware of certain needs that you might otherwise have been unaware of. Play is a safe environment for pretending about the difficult things in life too. If you're there, alongside, you'll sometimes get a deeper glimpse into your child's thoughts and feelings.

But, as with everything, there must be balance. Que tomorrow's post. :) I'll leave you with a few choice words from a very wise and well-balanced article, found here:

"Set aside a period of time that's bounded," advises Julianne Idleman, communications director for Hand in Hand Parenting, a California-based group that conducts parenting workshops and support groups. "It needs to have a beginning and an end so the child understands they're going to have you to themselves and you are fully devoted to them."

Why didn't I think of that?

Seriously. Learning to parent has been a challenge for me. Visualize a very steep learning curve.

But the good news is -- my child will know that they have my full attention when I DO play with them. I will be fulling engaged, both wings flapping. And when it's time for me to go back to my own work, so they can fly off to other worlds of imagination, they can relax, knowing it's their own time now.

At least, it's a good idea. We'll see if we can begin to put it into practice around here. Along with training them to play by themselves...more on that tomorrow.