3.13.2012

lego hex maze

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I have a friend who has this amazing talent. She can sit and play with her kids... forever. It's her idea of a perfect day.

I very much envy her.

One of my shortcomings as a parent is my nearly minuscule attention span for play. Or certain types of non-goal driven play. I can roughhouse and wrestle as long as my muscles hold out and I can craft until the sun goes down, but when it comes to picking up the toys and moving them around, to my eternal shame, I Just. Can't. Do. It.

I don't know if this something that is just me, but I suspect that many parents almost develop ADD whenever they try to sit and play with their kids. Either a there is a sudden need to check in on their social networks (I've read Facebook status' that read: Playing with the kids! :)) or the lack of sleep that goes hand in hand with parenthood comes knocking and they almost slip into a coma. For myself, I usually end up taking an involuntary nap if I have to push around the action figures or dress up the Barbies and engage in dramatic action in a pitched battle between enemies or a date with Ken (sometimes the same thing).

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Even when I was young I wasn't a big fan of this type of play. I'd bargain with my friends by giving them an hour of playing house and they give me an hour of wheat field fort building or riding bikes. I suspect that that may be one of the reasons why I've never been popular with the ladies.

But still, now, my kids. They love to play with me. And I want to play with them. Its been my ongoing challenge lately to play with the kids in a way that doesn't induce sleep in me or a desire to turn play into a Project.

Just, you know, play.

While I still can't quite manage Barbies, I have found that if there is some component of construction or creativity (beyond dramatic dialogue), my level of interest and engagement is much higher, which translates into more time on the floor and more fun for all of us.

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Legos are brilliant, aren't they? While I've never had even the slightest urge to build a robot or transportation device, I love putting together houses, playgrounds and mazes. The kids have found ways to incorporate their toys into the Lego-scape and we all can play for quite some time before I wander off to update my Facebook status (Playing Legos with the kids! :)).

How do you guys feel about play with the kids? Who loves it? Anyone dread it when junior asks you to play dress up? What's some of your favorite games?

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19 comments:

  1. I don't. That's why I had lots of kids...for them to play with each other. ;)

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  2. I was going to say a similar comment to Anita. I have two kids and they play together and I think it's the best thing ever. My daughter at two is so much easier than my son at two because I don't have to entertain her.

    When my son was her age I was buying Duplo sets for *me* to play with because when you only have 10 blocks or whatever comes in the small set it's pretty boring.

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  3. Thanks for this. I turned to your blog tonight for some of your wonderful honesty and perspective on parenting and got it.

    I'm not great at playing with my kids. I am too focussed on goal-oriented tasks and to-do lists and find myself setting random and needless timelines on play. But when I manage to let go and stop worrying about what's not getting done I have a great time. They are both fantastic at pretend and, while I remain baffled by their many rules ("okay, pretend this") I marvel at their imagination. I am, however, terrible at tolerating kids movies and TV. When they watch they want me to watch with them, and I'm always sneaking onto the computer to surf blogs.

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  4. I'm the crafter, the baker, the book-reder, the one to chat with. I just can't play no matter how hard I try. My husband is the go-to play friend in this house.

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  5. ditto, ditto and ditto.

    i tend to read a book, with tons of comments from my children to regain my attention.

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  6. I wrote a post about this very thing, last year!
    http://www.falafelandthebee.com/?p=5898
    I just don't play.
    I give you lots of credit for trying!
    ~Michelle

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  7. I don't/didn't like playing with (my) kids either. I'd rather go on a walk and show them flowers, bushes and trees, clouds, birds, anything. Or I am outside with them in the garden. I think to let the children participate in my life is enough. Therefore they can help me clean, cook, gardening what ever is needs to be done. When they are young, they love it. When they are older they have to do it but they are used to it. And last but not least, don't they have brothers and sisters or friends to play with them?

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  8. I so know what you mean! I just can't find the relax-and-don't-think-about-what-you-need-to-do-or-can-be-doing mode!

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  9. I don't play with my kids either, but there are 3 of them - close in age - so they don't even ask. They have each other. I always feel like I don't have enough time to do everything as it is that I'm sure I wouldn't last long before getting all fidgety over things that needed to be done.

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  10. Charity, once again you are in my head. I would rather eat my own arm than play for five minutes. If terrorists wanted to break me, bodily harm might not work but playing with my kids definitely would. I usually end up falling asleep on the floor and then they decorate me with stickers while I'm out. Win-win.

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  11. I hated playing as a child!! I preferred reading or listening to adult conversation! :)
    I can't stand playing with the kids, that is what they have each other for. :) I do enjoy overhearing their games though.
    Since I never have played with them, they don't even expect me to. I truly admire my husband for getting on the floor and roughhousing with them, and playing silly word games and silly routines with them. At least they get it from somewhere!

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  12. Great job trying to play more with your kids.
    I am in the same boat-wishing I was better at playing with my daughter. I found that playing board/card/video games (mancala, scrabble slam, blockus, viva pinata, etc.) with my daughter works best for us. Sometimes we play for one quick game, other times we will play for an hour or longer.

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  13. yep, that's what siblings are for

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  14. I, too, have a hard time engaging in creative play with my children. I cook with them, read hundreds of books, tell stories, play board games, teach them and give them loves. But I avoid play like the plague! Their Daddy is really good at playing with them, though. And for this, i am truly grateful. However, being a better "player" is something I am working on . . .

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  15. I was grinning as I read your post, as you once again put into words what I couldn't express so eloquently. Was beginning to feel I was broken as a play-at-home mom, as I would rather get the kids up to the counter to help me cook or plan gardens out in the yard or a bike ride to the creek to throw rocks. It is painful to watch me try to sit and engage over action figures and tiny motorcycles. I attribute it to my ADD tendencies. I remind myself often that "play" is their job; playing with them is not the same as goofing off and not accomplishing things on my list. I'm getting better at putting play on my list of things to accomplish, but it's a work in progress. But here I am rambling so as to avoid playing "X Games" again :)

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  16. i can sit and play candyland with my daughter once, but i am desperate to escape when she begs to play it a 2nd or 3rd time. board games make me bored. my new thing is to say yes to one round of a game or to a given amount of time playing it, then i'll read her a book or craft with her. but my all-time favorite is when i set her up with something to do on one side of the dining room table... right across from my sewing machine! :)

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  17. I have a two-year-old, so "play" involves dragging me over to the couch he uses as his raceway, and then lining up all his cars bumper-to-bumper and not letting me touch them, but I MUST be giving him my full attention. "No, Mama!!" from an OCD toddler. Awesome.

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  18. I am rubbish at playing and I wish I could be better. Lego is probably the one thing I enjoy doing for a while with the kids. I wish I liked crafting!

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  19. Thank you for your post and to all the commenters for making me feel less of a bad mummy. I would rather clean the oven than play dress up! Thankfully there is only 13 months between my two so they tend to play together and come to me for cuddles, stories and curling up with a movie. We also bake together and they love 'helping' me with chores. Not sure that last one will stick!

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