Make Participating in Play a Priority

Love…is not a passive but a participatory emotion. – Marianne Williamson

Yesterday I had an hour alone with my toddler and she wanted to play with play-dough at the kitchen table. I got everything out for her, and sat for a moment watching her make ‘cupcakes’. She seemed quite content so I got up and started washing some dishes. She asked me to come back and play with her. I washed a few more dishes then sat down again, sort of half-heartedly smushing play-dough. As I sat, my mind kept wandering off in so many directions. I thought about all the other things I needed to get done. I rolled out some play-dough then got up again and wiped the counter. Then I sat down again and looked at Facebook on my phone. This dance repeated itself, filling the hour. In that time, I probably only gave my daughter my full attention for a combined total of 10 minutes.

Here I am trying to be all intentional about finding moments to connect with my kids, and I feel like I blew this opportunity. If I had just given her a solid 20 minutes of my time, focused only on our game and on her, then I probably could have told her, “Mommy has some other things to do now while you play”. I would have then spent the next half hour being way more productive on my ‘to-do list’. I think we both would have enjoyed that hour more if I’d been able to really participate in play for at least half of it. Instead, I was there with her in body, but not in spirit… Love is not passive. Participate in life. Participate in love. Live and learn.

4 thoughts on “Make Participating in Play a Priority”

  1. I read in one of my many parenting books that you should schedule play with your children each day at roughly the same time. The author (not sure which one) boasted that if your children can count on your undivided attention for 1-2 scheduled thirty minute increments, that the other times in the day they would be more likely to play contently by themselves!! Seems like such a simple concept, we feed our children, put them to bed, take them to school or other activities at roughly the same time each day to help them have a schedule and feel secure about what is coming next, why not schedule play into the day too! Wish I could say I have tried this concept. I could see Ava liking the idea that errands, housework, appointments, etc..all happened around her scheduled playtime with me and didn’t interrupt it.

  2. Katherine, that’s an intriguing idea. I wonder though what that would do to the spontaneity of play. Play is an activity in a category all its own, unlike those other activities you mentioned in many ways. So, in some respects scheduling play might dilute the quality a bit….
    Or not. Maybe it would help the parent be more present and more creative because s/he is committed to that time as strictly play time. Maybe as you suggest, children would like this set-up more because it’s predictable, and seems to value play as special. As I think on this, it occurs to me that my husband has informally scheduled play-time with the kids every weekday. He has a window when he comes home from work, and before the kids go to bed, to just play with them.
    Now I’m curious to hear more. Let me know the name of that book if you remember!

  3. I found myself smiling as I read your post. Its been something I’ve been thinking about lately with my own kids…being present, in the moment with my kids. Awhile back I noticed my three-year-old always saying, “just a minute mom” when I asked him to do something. It drove me crazy!!!!! After a few weeks of this I realized I was doing the same thing to him. When he asked me to come play, I would say “just a minute!” Since realizing this, I am attempting to be more present in the time I spend with my kids and showing them that they are important to me by responding to me when they ask me a question right away, even if that means expressing that I heard them but would need them to be patient for a moment if I absolutely cannot stop at that point in time. Somedays I do really well…other days, the distractions of life pull at me and I hear myself say, “just a minute.” 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

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