When your kids are little it can be hard to be enthused about play. Parenting is exhausting.  For all parents. Whether you do it all day or after a long day of work or study, it is super tough to find the energy to play. I have had a lot of parents (friends and clients) tell me that they feel guilty because they hate to play or because they don’t find the time to play. It is time to let go of that guilt. You are doing an awesome job! You can read the last post I wrote about why play is important HERE.

So the bad news is, I don’t have a magic super game to teach you that will make play time as joyful for you as it is for your little one.

What I do have are a couple of examples of what I do at home with my daughter to build play in to our day and to make it super beneficial for them and you, even if you can only do it for a short time every day.

My top tip is to build it in to your day, your routine, your rhythm. Sure this is my answer to a lot of things! I also believe that some spontaneity and flexibility are important too. Think of it like this, kids LOVE to know what is coming next, they love to prepare themselves, they love cues that remind them of what to expect. Parents, in general like these things too (although sometimes we get bored and need to break out of it all and go wild)!

So in relation to play time, put it in the diary or decide on a cue if you need more flexibility. We do a bit of both of these things and it helps keep me sane when I don’t want to play babies anymore.

We have playtime (with Mummy or Daddy) when Miss 28mths wakes up from her nap most days. We chose this time because we are often out or have jobs to do in the morning but one or the other of us is generally available for a decent play session in the early – mid afternoon. She knows that this is the time we put aside for play so we can use this in our language at other times when we don’t feel like playing. “I know you really want to play babies now and you can play with the babies while Mummy does (whatever) and don’t forget when you wake up from your sleep today it is PLAAAYYYYtime with Daddy!!” Of course you can play at other times but keep allocated play time as well.

We also have ‘The cleaning music’ which indicates that Mummy can’t play right now as it is ‘Cleaning Time’. Right away we can start using language like ‘Mummy can’t play right now because it’s cleaning time, the cleaning music is on.’ If this alone doesn’t work then I ask her if she would prefer to help Mummy with the cleaning or to play by herself.

If she is sick, tired, or just having a rough time (as in clings on to my leg like a monkey and cries) I put the timer on for 10 minutes and play with her and then try again with the cleaning music. If she still hasn’t settled (this is rare now) I give up on the cleaning or household chores because to me, life is too short.  I know some people can’t do that as a tidy house = tidy mind but for me this is over taken by quiet child = quiet mind!  This works really well for us, my daughter (eventually) began to play well by herself when the cleaning music was on.  (you could have music for play time, cooking time, work time, whatever)

Another thing we do is Child Led Play. We try to do this daily, even if only for 10 mins but it also works really well to re-connect your child to their thinking brain and to you.  If my daughter is whiny or being a general pain in the bum, it works really well to shift that behaviour! I sit on the floor in front of her and say “Let’s play, what would you like Mummy to do.” If I have things to do (usually it is dinner half made) then we use the timer on the oven to indicate when we will stop playing. I do as my daughter tells me too during this kind of play. I also try to make her wishes a reality in this time. If she wants to play outside and it is wet, we put boots and a jacket on and get changed in to PJs when we come in. If she wants me to be the dog and she take me for a walk, I put the lead on! We have had some hilarious moments during child led play, she grows her confidence, her ability to communicate her needs and her emotions, her sense of power and I grow my ability to be vulnerable, say YES and let go of control. We both develop better communication, connection and cooperation too so it is worth the pain of the ‘I don’t want to’ thoughts.

I hope you found these examples helpful . I know that it still means you have to do play time but go easy on yourself. If you don’t have it in you to do play time today, call on a friend or family member to help out to give you a break. Organise a play date or meet a little friend at the playground. Get out of the house, even if you have no one to meet! Go for a walk, jump in puddles, collect pebbles on the beach, go to a play café and have a cuppa while your little one burns some energy. It is okay to look after yourself too, you don’t have to be Playful Mama or Papa everyday.
In my upcoming Toddlers in the Tree House 5 week group program ( for parents of children under 4 yrs) we will focus on Play, Emotions and Setting Limits. For more info you can see below and go HERE. for bookings.