Teachers and early childhood professionals tell parents that it’s good to play with your child. This is not always as self-explanatory as it may sound. As a matter of fact, for some parents, me included, playing with your child can be a frustrating experience.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my children when they were young, but more that I didn’t enjoy playing some of the games young children enjoy. One example is the game Candy Land!
For example, when I used to play Candy Land with my children, life slowed down to a snail’s pace while I also was being transported to a make-believe land of Candy (which I like!) that I couldn’t wait to get out of!!! It should be named Candy Trap!
Another game that I found myself not enjoying was pretend play. For some reason, I couldn’t play “house” for very long before being distracted with the reality that my own house needed attention. I also found myself unable for very long to pretend to be the cat, the monster, or whatever it was that my child needed another person to be in his land of make-believe.
With that in mind, here are a few activities that I have found to be mutually enjoyable as well as educational, but most importantly, fun!
The number one mutually enjoyable activity between young child and parent is play dough!!
Now, I know that store-bought play dough is more convenient and often comes with multiple gadgets to play with, but much more fun (to me) is to take the time to make scented homemade play dough.
First of all, making the play dough is a great learning experience for a child. The activity is filled with many science concepts as well as math. Allow your child to measure the flour and pour water into. If possible, help your child to stir the mixture. They will see how a few ingredients come together to make one product. From just this simple activity comes great brain stimulation as you are employing multiple senses. Sight, touch, smell, and hearing are all involved.
Another fun activity to play with your child is open- ended building. This can be done with blocks, legos, pipe cleaners, bristle blocks, and magnets. There are multiple building toys that you can try.
These activities are fun for child as well as adult because again, you both are playing suing the same item, but on your own level. You can converse, teach a skill, or even just build quietly while snuggling together. You can even just sit and watch and talk about what your child is creating. The main thing to remind your child ahead of time that you will play for a set amount of time, say 30 minutes, and then you’ll need to do other things around the house to help your family.
Another great activity is playing with multiple toys that are grouped together with a common theme. Here’s what I mean: for boys, I would put together in a bin a group of toys that belong together such as different construction vehicles, blocks, etc. In another bin, I might put zoo animals, pretend food, cages, trees, etc. You get the idea.
It’s much more fun to have multiple toy bins that can be stored away in a closet and pulled one at a time daily than having multiple bins out at a time and many toys scattered and mixed up littering the living room.
Pick one of these bins and sit on the floor with your child and help them play by coming up with different scenarios. For example, set up cages using blocks or legos and then group the animals together, then you become the zoo worker and feed the animals.
Another activity that I encourage you to try is to share an activity with your child that you already enjoy. I see many parents ride bikes with their child, roller skate, swim, dance, do art, play or listen to music, etc.
I understand that some of the activities adults enjoy are just their own thing or that they do in private time, but I challenge you to share these with your child. I’m now a parent of teenagers and two of my children enjoy activities that at least one of us parents enjoy. I’m an artist and my husband is a musician. We have enjoyed art and musical festivals with our young and now teen children.
There are probably many more play ideas and activities that are enjoyable to share with your children. These are my top three that I hope will enhance the enjoyment of your children and set you free from another game of Candy Land!