My husband took off work Monday afternoon, and we went to the park, all four of us. It was pretty magical. Without anyone else there, we could swing on the swings, spin on the merry go rounds, and slide down the slides. All four of us.
All week long, with that afternoon, and with our past few snow days, it’s getting me thinking more about being a more playful mom. Because, let’s face it, life and adulting can make me grumpy. Being the one who has to be responsible for everyone else, to make the holiday magic happen AND get dinner on the table, does not leave me in a place where I feel like playing.
But playing is everything to kids. Mr. Rogers, wise man that he is, even went so far as to say that play is, “the work of childhood,” and “serious learning”. And really, when we all look back on it, my kids probably won’t remember a spotless house. (There isn’t one to remember, anyway.) Hopefully they’ll remember times we play together, and many of them.
Ways to Be a More Playful Mom
If you want to be more playful, but you need a little push, here are some tips that help me get there.
1. Say “yes”more.
Ever look back and realize half of the sentences you’ve said that day include the word “no”? And why not? Most of your job is trying to keep kids from destroying themselves, or someone or something else. And they’re into EVERYTHING.
But when I make up my mind to say “yes”more, opportunities open up for me to do just that. I realize that it’s not the worst thing that they’re playing in the dirt (clothes wash) or are running around the house (as long as they aren’t hitting each other or the walls). It may even open up the possibility of fun play you didn’t think of before.
2. Say “yes and”.
I’m a theatre kid, and studied theatre education in college. So I’ll refer you to the main rule of improvisation, which is to say, “yes and.” When someone says “no” in a scene, it pretty much kills a scene. Like the following scenario:
Person 1: I’m so glad we’re here in Times Square!
Person 2: NO, we’re not in Times Square, we’re on the moon.
::crickets:: End scene.
Instead, say “yes,” and take it a step further. Your child might say something like, “we’re pirates!” or “I’m eating you!” Maybe it sounds dumb, but go with it! Take it further and become the pirate captain, or nibble back on their toes. It will be fun.
3. Get out more.
I find that when we’re home for too long, I less and less want to play. And more and more want to take a nap. Getting out, going on adventures, playing with different toys, going outside – all these things present more opportunities to play.
Plus, and I’m just going to say it, it is way less likely for me to just be on my phone or doing my own thing in public with my kids. Partially because I need to supervise them more, and partially because I don’t want to be judged for it. It’s kind of a good peer pressure.
4. Take care of you.
Who do you think wants to play more: the mom who got 4 hours of sleep, or the one who got 8? The mom who has had zero time alone, or the one who got a girl’s night out this week?
I know, I know, it’s not always possible. You may not have a good sleeper yet, or you might still be looking for a reliable babysitter. I’m just saying, when it’s within your control, try to get some rest and self-care. Go to the gym. Take that nap. Do what you can. When you are at peace, it frees you up to play more.
5. Introduce them to something you loved as a kid.
Sometimes I can feel more playful when I initiate a game I like. I can teach my kiddo a new game, like Uno, or we color together. Playing pirates all the time can get a little old, so bringing out something different, something I like to do, helps me engage more.
6. Swap out toys.
This is an idea I’ve stolen from a few people, but keep some toys on reserve, and pull them out when things get boring. New toys make for fun new play moments, for you and for them.
7. Be willing to change your plan.
Sometimes my responsibility over my kids leaves me feeling stressed about things I don’t need to be stressed about. Like, being “on time” for something you don’t need to be, or eating on the “right” schedule, or starting nap time at the same time every day. Maybe you have reasons for those things to happen right at a certain time.
But mostly, we are flexible. I’m home with them. We don’t need to be anywhere at any particular time. Opening up to being interrupted or changing the plan sometimes leads to new adventures no one expected.
Those are my tips! What tips do you have for being more of a playful mom?