Playing with your kids doesn’t have to be a chore. If you’re struggling to connecting with your kids through play, here are some fantastic alternatives! Thanks to Janine from Encourage Play for these suggestions.
As parents, we know we should play with our kids but we sometimes struggle with how to do that. We want to connect with our kids, but we don’t want to play Chutes and Ladders in an endless loop.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to! My favorite way to define play is doing any activity for fun and amusement.
It can be anything your family enjoys doing together. And it doesn’t have to be perfectly set up or go smoothly every single time. All that matters is that you’re sharing an experience and spending time together.
Here are 10 ways to connect with your kids in a way that you can both enjoy.
Create something together
It could be something as big as a tree house, or as small as a drawing. A good friend of mine spent a snow day making a doll’s bed with her daughter who loves crafts and making things for her dolls. In the end, they had a new toy and had a good time laughing and creating together.
Watch a movie
Having a family movie night can be an activity everyone looks forward to during the week. There are so many different themes that come up in movies, and it can actually spark some interesting conversations after the movie is all over.
Learn something new together
Taking a class together can be such a fun bonding experience. Even if it doesn’t go well, you have the memory of doing something fun together that you can talk about and remember as you get older.
Read a book together
There are some great books out there that can generate lively discussions with your child. You can introduce them to books you loved as a child or read the books that they’re interested in now. It’s great to read a section of a book and then take a few minutes to talk about it.
What do YOU love?
What are your interests? What do you like to do in your free time? What did you enjoy as a child? Take some time and show your child what you love. I love crafting, and I recently began teaching my daughter how to sew. She has enjoyed that special time with the two of us, and she also likes to see her finished product.
What do THEY love?
My kids love, love, love anything LEGO related. The LEGO Movie, LEGO and Duplo blocks, LEGO games, LEGO shows, etc. So we’ve been building with LEGO bricks together and playing different LEGO games together. A great way to show kids that you are interested in them is to participate with them in something that they love.
Any game will work – board games, card games, video games, etc. Board games are a great way to practice social skills, taking turns, handling winning and losing, and you can model positive behaviors for them. We’ve recently been enjoying Spot It, Crazy 8s and Zingo. My husband and I also like playing video games with our kids. I’ll play Animal Crossing with them, and he’s been playing Minecraft with them. It’s fun to connect with them that way.
Experience something together
Go to a museum, the zoo, the aquarium or a show with your kids. These experiences can be the ones you will all remember for a long time. My family and I went to a Puppet Theater recently and had a great time laughing and enjoying the show.
Cooking or baking together can be enjoyable. Even very young kids can participate. They love to mix and stir and pour in ingredients. It’s also good prep for life skills. For instance, they need to learn how to crack an egg so the shell doesn’t go everywhere. Plus there’s always the fun of taste testing!
Talk (and laugh) at dinner
Ask silly questions, and get comfortable being silly yourself. This can be a great way to connect and get to know each other in a different way. Some examples of questions you can ask:
- What kind of superpower would you want?
- What would you do with $1 million dollars?
- If you could only take 5 things to a deserted island, what would you take and why?
Relax, be a little silly and channel your own inner child. Play should be fun, for them AND for us!
Janine Halloran is a licensed therapist, school counselor and a mom. She started Encourage Play to help kids learn social skills through play. Check out their resources and activities to help kids connect to one another and practice friendship skills.