Benson Tait

Benson Tait

Sep 7, 2024. 6 mins read


8 Practical Ideas to Play with Your Kids Even When it’s Not Your Thing

“Am I a bad parent if I don’t like playing with my kids?”

Whether you’re suffering fromDepleted Mother Syndrome (DMS) or simply don’t enjoy playing with your children, lots of mums and dads have found themselves Googling the above statement with some even admitting they don’t enjoy playing with their kids on social media.

Tired Bored Mother Watching her Daughter Playing at Home

A 2023 poll from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne found that 61% of parents find playing with their child hard or boring. Leading to feelings of guilt, confusion and overwhelm, not enjoying playing with your kids is nothing to be ashamed of. But if you’re looking to find out what you can do about it to change your perspective and mindset, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are our top 8 ways to play with your kids even if you aren’t the designated “fun parent” Tiktok wants you to be! 

How play impacts children’s development

We know how important it is to keep our children clothed, fed and healthy. But people often forget just how important play is for a child’s development.

Play isn’t just fun for your kiddos. It helps improve their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. Allowing them to learn critical skills for relationships, academics and work life, play improves self-esteem, independence and the ability to cope with challenging situations. 

Play also encourages children to explore their feelings, regulate emotions and improve physical fitness and coordination. Play results in a landscape of goodness for the mind, body and soul!

Real talk – I don’t like playing with my kid

More and more parents are doing away with the societal pressures placed upon them and instead opening up with honest sentiments about parenting – namely, they don’t enjoy playing with their children!

First and foremost – this is a judgement-free zone. If this is something that resonates with you, know that this feeling isn’t just normal, it’s actually quite common.

So don’t beat yourself up about not being over the moon about playing with your children.

But knowing how important play is for development, we’ve put together a list of ways to play with your children that aren’t painful for busy parents. With these strategies, everyone wins! You may even find yourself enjoying playtime for the first time ever.

1. Start by getting on the floor

Put your phone away. Turn off the TV. Make a commitment to play time and plop down on the floor beside your kiddos. Just sitting on the floor with your children is welcoming enough to entice them into playful activities where they involve you.

Allow them to lead and surrender to the present moment. And if the idea of playing along with whatever game your child has created makes you physically wince, try the 5-minute approach. This involves playing with your children for 5 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break to tend to household tasks. By knowing that you’re not locked into playtime for hours on end, you may find yourself opening up more and enjoying the moment.

2. Embrace simplicity

Toys are great. They can serve as valuable tools for helping your children have fun and explore. But don’t fall into the trap of believing that you need mountains of expensive toys for playtime.

Never underestimate just how simple play can be. Maybe you end up playing catch with a ball. Maybe your children want to cook with you or water the plants. Play doesn’t have to be complex. Embrace the simplicity of mundane everyday moments for fun and engaging activities with your children.

3. Choose activities that you love

If you’re struggling to enjoy playing with your children, seek out an activity that you love to do and invite them to join. Maybe you really enjoy painting. Get yourself some watercolours and paper and enjoy creating alongside your kiddo. By choosing an activity that you both enjoy, you’re much more likely to get involved and have fun.

And if you can’t remember which activities you used to love (happens to the best of us!), think back to what brought you joy as a child. Reigniting these interests can be instrumental for bonding with your children while helping you rediscover your passions at the same time.

4. Slow down

We’re all guilty of it. Rushing your child when you’re out on a walk. Counting down the minutes until playtime is over. It’s hard managing play time when you’ve got endless responsibilities as a parent.

Instead of rushing your children (and yourself!) during a time that’s meant to be fun, intentional and easy-going, carve out a certain amount of time with no agenda. Yes, actually schedule it in your diary.

Turn your phone off and allocate this time to play. If your 5-minute walk to the park turns into a 45-minute wander where you stop off and pick up sticks, smell the flowers - whatever, so be it! By slowing down and not placing expectations on your play session, you’re much more likely to live in the moment with your child.

5. Recognise bids for connection

Play can feel a bit boring, demanding, tiring and even triggering for some parents. As many adults never got to play with their parents when they were growing up, engaging in the act of play can feel foreign and overwhelming.

Help heal your inner child while bolstering your kiddo’s confidence by recognising their bids for connection. Learn to say “yes” when they invite you to play or let them know when’s a good time to engage. Instead of shutting down their invitation, revel in their silliness and celebrate their imagination.

6. Seize the moment

While it can be tempting to construct elaborate play opportunities for your kiddos, learn to seize the moment when something piques their interest. 

Take, for example, your child’s interest in a box. Instead of taking it away and giving them an “age-appropriate toy”, get down on the floor with them and let your imagination run wild. Turn it into a magical school bus or get out markers and crayons for the ultimate canvas that can get messy. Seize the moment and have fun.

7. Let them lead

As adults, we know how games are supposed to be played - and it can be tough to relinquish control when our children are learning. It’s all too easy for us to take over and show them how something “should” look, such as blocks being stacked into a tower instead of placed alongside each other.

Remember that your children play at a different pace and style than you. And that’s great! Encourage their independence and watch their unique personalities unfold. Once you stop dictating and let them take the lead, you’ll find you learn lots more about your kiddos as time goes on.

8. Engage in toy rotation

Playing with the same toys and games over and over and over again is painfully boring. 

Avoid the nightmare of repetition by engaging in toy rotation. Swap out toys every 2-3 weeks with the help of a toy library or our toy swapping app and only keep a certain amount out at a given time to encourage independent play and engagement.

Whether you’re not a fan of playing with your children or simply don’t know how, we hope this article has provided you with some actionable suggestions that transform playtime for you and your kiddos. Helping you connect as a family while improving your children’s development, play doesn’t have to be boring and overwhelming. It can be fun, fruitful and engaging for everyone involved.

Benson Tait

Benson Tait

Design . Digital . Fathering . Husbanding . Surviving . Founder

A man who loves design, technology, food and his family of two young girls and a smart gorgeous wife, who is on a mission to make parenting easier and help kids flourish for a happier home.

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