Play Time

Not quite a year ago I started doing something very simple at home with my son that has helped us in many  ways: I designate 20-30 minutes a day as dedicated playtime with him. I set a timer on my phone, put it out of reach, and let my five-year-old son choose an activity for us. A lot of times it’s LEGOs or Magnet Blocks, but sometimes it’s coloring or a board game. He knows that for that chunk of time I’m totally his. We talk about our days, his imaginary friend, plans for the weekend, and whatever it is we’re actually doing. It isn’t a ton of time, but it satisfies his desire for me to play with him and it helps us connect.

I know for some people, probably ones without kids, truth be told, this seems crazy. You have to set a timer to play uninterrupted with your kid? You don’t play longer than 25 minutes a day? I get it. But I found a stat once that said working parents spend less than 35 a week reading to their kids and less than an hour playing- it’s a widespread struggle!  Let me tell ya, when you are gone at work and commuting anywhere from nine and a half to eleven hours a day  and still have to do the “take care of the house/cook dinner/help with homework/get kid ready for bed” shuffle every day anything extra can be a stretch. I have a tendency to multitask and gogogogoGO to knock things off my to-do list, so setting a play timer forces me to stop, breathe, and focus on my son, doing something he loves. (Playing doesn’t count towards the time I already spend talking to him in the car, helping him on homework, stopping to look at all the things he makes with his toys, reading to him at night, etc…)

Another advantage to doing this is that he is a lot more understanding of me telling him he needs to hold off on interrupting my paper-grading, housecleaning, bill paying, etc… After we have our play time I usually try to take a break for myself, reading or whatever, and if he tries to interrupt I don’t feel guilty gently reminding him that he and I already had our time and it’s now my turn to do something I like to do. He doesn’t have siblings, so learning to consider others and their wants is something I have to deliberately teach.

A lot of times I find this is super fun. The inner-child in me actually really enjoys building with LEGOs and blocks and it’s nice to just talk to hang out and not, you know, like empty the dishwasher. And, honestly, sometimes it is literally the last thing I want to do after a long day at work and I cheat a little and set the timer for seventeen minutes instead of twenty.

I know it might not seem like a big deal, but it’s become part of our routine and it helps with the mom-guilt. My own mom (sorry mom) didn’t play with us much; she had four kids and my dad wasn’t super involved (and then dead, which is super not helpful), so she had her hands full. She was more likely to coach our softball teams or allow us to have friends spend the night than to play Barbies. The idea of Sawyer looking back and never remembering us playing bothers me, so I make sure to carve out some regular time to do so.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is a fantastic idea.

    I would think a kid would LOVE knowing he gets 20 whole minutes play time with Mom every night. 20 minutes is a long time to a little kid, I would think. And like you said, it teaches him that you need uninterupted time to get stuff done and he needs to wait until his scheduled play time. I like it!