Here, as promised from a previous post, is the start of a list of things we’ve started doing to make the parenting more playful in our house. We certainly don’t have a monopoly on fun ideas so feel free to add to this list or add your comments. Finally, since our kids are still pretty young (the oldest is 6), some of these ideas might not carry as much weight with older kids. But here goes ……
1. Singing while we do almost anything – either made-up songs, childrens’ songs, or “adult” songs. Especially good for transitions (getting ready for bed, tidying up, getting ready to leave). A trick I learned from Waldorf teachers is to keep the melody in the pentatonic scale which has 5 notes instead of 7. Whenever I sing in this scale, it has an almost fairy-like effect on children. They turn to me and follow much more attentively than I imagined possible.
2. Rhyming – this works anywhere, anytime.
3. I Spy – Especially good while stuck somewhere – waiting in line, at the doctor’s office …
4. Story-telling with them as protagonists
5. Kicking a ball in the direction of travel
6. Tossing things (socks while putting away laundry, etc)
7. Follow the leader
8. Playing Tag while waiting for a bus
9. Rope or a scarf to play tug of war, drape it over their heads, pretend bull-fights, flap around
10. Turn them into Pokemon (or whatever character they are currently into) – we tell our son that he is the pokemon trainer so he has to explain things and teach things kindly to his little sister (his pokemon)
11. We go through phases when we use the tactic of carrying out ongoing (yawn) “conversations” between our kids’ tongues and bodies when luring them to eat something they don’t like but need. i.e. the tongue says in a high pitched voice, “don’t worry about eating that stuff, just give me dessert!” The body replies, “no I’m feeling weak; don’t let me get sick; eat that broccoli instead” etc. etc.
12. Similarly, when going through a teeth-brushing-resistance phase, we put on an imaginary voice for the sugar bugs resisting the construction workers (the toothbrush) saying, “Look out, here they comes hide; hide; oh oh he’s rinsing his mouth; hold on for your lives; aaaaaaaaaaa (when they get rinsed out and go down the drain); we’re gonners…… etc.” Our kids always get huge grins of satisfaction out of this one although for me I find it a real drag sometimes because it’s usually the end of the day and I just want to get the job done. Yet I know that if I just summon up a bit more energy and creativity it will turn into a fun activity and go a lot more easily than it would have otherwise.
Life is short and the time with our small children even shorter. If we can see the struggles of the early years as temporary and enjoy the many small moments of fun and humour I feel it will add to our long-term relationship with our children, our own love of life, and our ability to get through even the most frustrating day.