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Some days, I’m a “super mom”! I read with and to my kids, we do craft projects, we paint, we bake… basically, I’m ready to spend hours with them.
But I have a confession to make: although I love my children, I don’t always feel like playing with them. Sometimes just the thought of it tires me out – worse, there are days it even annoys me!
But here’s the problem: there is often a feeling of “guilt” when we do not play “enough” with our children, but knowing just how much is “enough” is not always easy.
If you’re like me, I have good news – kids need to play alone, and they also need to experience boredom. Some studies suggest that boredom promotes their autonomy and leads to more creativity and imaginative play.
That said, it’s not always easy to know how to help them handle their boredom without actually being involved yourself and without feeling guilty or overwhelmed.
Here are a few tips to help.
1) Schedule a “time to play” every day
Spending time with our kids is important. The moments spent together strengthen your parent-child bond. But it is essential to focus on quality rather than quantity.
In other words, if playing with your children is weighing you down, that might be a sign that something needs to change. An easy way to find the right balance is to dedicate part of your day to hanging out with them.
Setting a specific time to play doesn’t mean never playing with them outside the pre-determined times. It is simply an easy strategy to ensure that you set time aside to hang out with your kids on a regular basis and to ensure that no one feels frustrated.
It also allows you to mentally prepare – having a fixed time means being able to forget all your other commitments and responsibilities and to dedicate yourself to your kids and to the moments you spend together.
15 minutes a day devoted entirely to your kids is an easy way to ensure that you spend quality time together. The free challenge below proposes simple activities to try (lasting about 15 to 20 minutes) for the next 30 days.
2) Promote constructive boredom
We now know that letting your children get bored helps develop certain skills such as creativity.
That said, most kids need some sort of framework to be able to handle their boredom on their own. They need an idea of the activities that they can engage in, a conducive environment, and the tools and resources necessary to be able to handle their boredom alone.
For example, you can start by identifying together with your child the activities that they like and that they can do on their own. Ask them about their favorite activities, but do not hesitate to suggest anything else that you think they could appreciate.
Place the list of possible activities in a jar. Your child can then pick an activity to do when they feel bored.
Remember that this can only work if they have easy access to the “activity jar” and if they have all the resources that they need for their activities (markers, paint, brushes, papers, books, mandalas, puzzles, tools to make small crafts, toys, etc.).
This article proposes 100 activities to promote constructive boredom and increase your child’s creativity, as well as anti-boredom cards that you can download for free.
3) Teach your child to play alone
Some studies suggest that being an “always-present” parent prevents children from learning important social skills such as empathy, creativity, critical thinking, and the ability to solve their own problems.
Although our children don’t need us to play with them all the time, they appreciate our presence. Reading or knitting next to yours when they are playing Lego, or watering your garden when your kid is playing outside, is an easy way to stay present.
Also, seeing you doing activities alone teaches them that it is possible to enjoy alone time.
It is important that your child learns to play by themselves. Some researchers refer to “day planning” as an easy trick that can encourage children to think about the activities that they want to do in order to learn how to manage their time more independently.
The Constructive Boredom digital resource is full of tips to help your child learn how to plan their day. It also proposes more than 100 activities for your kids to try out.
4) Involve your child in your activities
Do you feel like your child wants you to play with them all the time? It is not necessarily playing that interests them, but rather the opportunity to spend time with you.
Involving your kids in your activities is an easy way to spend time with them without feeling frustrated. They can help you prepare the family meal, do some household chores, help out in the garden, and so on.
While your child will feel like they are playing, you will be able to accomplish the tasks that you have to do. Everyone wins!
5) Share the time for playing with kids with your partner
There are games I loathe, so I feel really frustrated when I get cornered into playing them. Luckily, these are games that my husband enjoys.
If there are games that you don’t like, chat with your partner to see how you can share them between you. Appreciating the ones you play will limit your boredom and frustration.
If you take the 30-day challenge proposed in this article, for example, you can decide the activities (or days) that each parent does with the kids.
Kids are always after us to play with them, but one day, it all stops. Today, we are the ones who try to get our teenage son to play with us, but he prefers to be in his room alone or to play with his friends! Playing with your kids is a precious moment (for the most part 😉 – enjoy it while it lasts!