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Child’s Play: Don’t Hate the Playa OR the Game


“Mama, will you play with me?”

The question can sometimes sink me like a stone, especially if I’m in the midst of a work project or otherwise doing something I want or need to do.

Read a book? Sure. Play a board game? I can manage that. Take you on adventures to play spaces, museums, story times, the zoo and more? I do those kinds of things a lot, as my Facebook wall can attest.

But playing? It’s not a skill at which I excel.

I try to play with my girls, I really do. But often I find myself at a loss. I’m not super creative with storytelling in the moment like my husband can be. They can have adventures with their little superhero figures interacting with Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol characters. With me, I generally have the characters say what I would feel and say, “I’m tired. I have a lot of work to do. Do you want to take a nap?” Not very engaging play!

When I was little, I loved to play with baby dolls and act out stories from books I’d read. I’d perform plays for an audience of zero, or pretend I was being interviewed on a TV show. So I know there’s spontaneous creativity somewhere deep in my psyche. I just haven’t tapped into it in decades!

This summer, while I balanced paid work and child care, it was especially difficult to respond positively to the requests for play. None of my work will ever come close to being as important to me as my daughters are, but it’s hard to remember that in the moment or when I’m on deadline. When both girls were home, they often played together and I was off the hook. Turning on a screen, whether TV or Kindle, can guarantee me time without play, but I can only stomach doing that so much. The month of August, when my oldest was back in school but my youngest’s preschool hadn’t started yet, was especially challenging. And I feel like I let her down and she had to play on her own a lot while we were home.

I know someday, and likely someday very soon, I will miss the times my girls want my undivided attention. I have to remind myself that keeping time for play is important, and I should get in the mix and play with them even when it seems like I don’t know how.

What are your go-to ways to play with your kids? Does play ever seem like work to you? Let me know in the comments!

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28 Oct 2019


By Mari Walker

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