When You Don’t Know How to Play With Your Kids

play with your kids


I don’t know how to play with my kids.

There. I said it.

Playing is hard for me.

At Christmas time, my niece asked me to play dolls with her. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know I have boys. I have two, rough and tumble, busy, car-loving boys. I’ve finally figured out how to play with them. We build with legos, we vroom cars around the coffee table, and we wrestle.

BUT DOLLS! I don’t even know what to do with them!

I thought about writing this post years ago…when my kids were first born and I really struggled to play with them.

But I felt like admitting it made me a terrible mom. What kind of mom doesn’t know how to play with her kids?

But then…a few weeks ago, I was chatting with a new mom who recently adopted three kids (and let me just add, WOW, she went from 0 to 3! This woman is a rock-star!) She bravely admitted the same thing, that she too struggles to play with her children.

So I’m writing this post for her and for me and for any other mom out there who has a hard time playing. Here are some things I’m trying to do, and I’d love it if  you’d join me.

What To Do When You Don’t Know How to Play:

1. Stop feeling guilty that you don’t like to play a certain way.

I LOVE reading to my kids, but I’m not a big fan of free play. I just don’t know what to do with it. I can drive a car around for a few seconds but then I wonder, “What now? Do I just keep driving it in circles? What am I supposed to do next?”

I like organized fun. (Boy, I sound so cool, right?)

I like doing puzzles and playing board games. I like going down water slides. I like playing Hide and Seek. I like games that have at least some semblance of order. I love reading books to my kids.

But I’m terrible at playing house or making up story lines for the cars we’re driving or playing school.

For too long, I’ve felt guilty for not enjoying these types of play.

And honestly, I’ve missed out because of it.

From here on out, I’m going to try and stop feeling guilty about the ways I don’t like to play and start playing in a way I enjoy instead.

2. Follow the child’s lead.

I remember when my boys were babies thinking I needed to DO something with them. They would just lie there with their rattle or small toy, and I felt like I was doing something wrong. I wasn’t playing with them or teaching them.

What I know now is that they were learning. I should have just followed their lead (and relaxed a little!)

Sure, our kids might need a little help getting started, but once they get started, kids are typically pretty creative. Let them handle the story lines as you participate.

3. Don’t make it so hard.

Playing with children doesn’t have to be hard. But for some reason, I get it in my head that there’s a certain way I’m supposed to be doing it. And then I question my abilities as a mom and wonder if I’m doing it right.

The truth is, my kids want me more than anything else. They don’t care if I like to have organized fun. They don’t care that I’m not super creative. They are more than willing to help me play with them, as long as I’m willing to try.

So what do you think, want to join me this week and play with your kids as I play with mine?

What other tips would you add to this list?

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Lindsey Bell
Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity, a devotional book for busy moms. She's also a speaker for women's events, a blogger at www.lindsey-bell.com, and a stay-at-home mother of two. She's an avid reader and a lover of all things chocolate. You can find her online at www.lindseymbell.com.