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The air was heavy with the sticky heat of summer in the southeast. My children were running around and playing while I fanned myself and watched their antics.
They were having fun and kept calling to me.”Look at me Mommy! Watch!”
I saw other moms pushing their kids on the swings, but that just wasn’t my thing now that they could do it themselves. I shared with the mom I was sitting with that I didn’t really know how to play.
I just hadn’t been that kind of kid, and my activities with my own mom had been more about watching a movie together, going on a hike, or me just reading a book.
So I stuck to those kinds of things, too. And I often sent my children to play together so that I could run our home smoothly.
“You know, it’s important to play with your children, too,” she told me from experience, this other mom of many who had teens as well as toddlers. “Healthy meals, a clean home, and all that stuff is important, but you have to play with your children, too. They’re waiting for you.”
Why Does It Matter If I Play With My Kids?
It was sound advice, but I really had no clue how to actually do it. I knew how to take them to the playground, how to go for walks, and how to set them up with educational toys.
But play? With them? I hadn’t even been good at that when I was a child!
When I was in grade school and it was time to go out to the playground for recess, I would go to the library and read a book. I’d always loved to read, but I was also afraid of being turned away by the other kids.
I just couldn’t handle them telling me they didn’t want to play with me, so I stopped going out and asking.
It’s funny; I can remember still the crushing disappointment when I asked for a friend to play with me and they were too busy, or just wanted to play something I wasn’t any good at.
When I put myself out there and asked for them to play with me, I was really asking if I mattered enough to them for them to say “yes”. And every time I heard “no”, it broke my heart.
Mommy, Will You Play With Me?
Even though I can remember that so vividly, all too often I deliver that crushing blow in my own home.
I’m often too busy to accept the gift of the hearts that are being laid before me by my children. I forget how important to it is to play with them.
“Mommy, can you play with me?”“Mommy, will you color with me?”“Mommy, watch!”“Mommy, want to dance?”“Mommy, let’s go for a walk!”
“Sorry, honey, Mommy has to finish cleaning.”“Okay, sweetie, I’ll take a quick break. I’ve only got a few minutes though.”“Maybe in a little bit; I’m trying to finish up.”“I can’t right now; I need to wash the dishes.”“Oh, baby, I’d love to but the laundry is backed up and I have to get to it.”“How about we do that tomorrow?”
>>>My heavenly Father gently showed me that my children felt that same way when they asked me for my time.
Can You Hear What They Are Really Asking?
“Mommy, will you spend time with me?”“Mommy, am I a priority in your life?”“Mommy, I feel insecure right now; will you spend some time affirming your love for me?“Mommy, I need a friend. Will you like me?”“Mommy, am I special?”“Mommy, do you enjoy being my mommy?”“Mommy, am I as fun to look at as your cell phone?”“Is playing with me as much fun as scrolling through facebook or texting your friend?”“Mommy, will you invest your time in my life or are you just passing time until I grow up?“Mommy, will you lay a foundation in my life nowso that when things get tougher we’ll have something to stand on?”
How Can I Play With My Children?
I recall a baby dedication I once attended that included a unique element. The pastor’s wife gave the mom a toy as a souvenir for the little one, but also as a reminder to the mom to play with her baby.
She gave the bittersweet reminder that everything else in life can wait, but your child won’t stop growing up just because you’re busy.
I went home that day and tried to figure out how to play with my kids. I really didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to start somewhere.
So I sat down in the middle of our family room and waited to see what my kids would do. They looked kind of confused at first so I hesitantly asked, “Can Mommy play with you?”
“YES!” they cried out joyfully, right before jumping on me and hugging me and telling me they loved me.
We spent the rest of that day playing with Waffle Blocks and tickling one another and giggling together.
I almost cried that night listening to their bedtime prayers, as they thanked Jesus that Mommy had wanted to play with them.
Sitting on the floor that day changed my life. It taught me how utterly beautiful it was to give my kids the gift of being wanted. And it made me want to give them that gift every single day.
If you’re wondering how to get started playing with your children, just sit down.
That’s it. Sit down on the floor with them and ask if you can play. They will embrace your presence and the gift of love you are giving.
Let them direct your time. Do they bring you blocks? Build. Cars? Drive around the town together, making noises. Dolls? Play house with them. Crayons? Color a picture. Books? Read to them.
Soak Your Kids With Grace
This is another opportunity to live a life abandoned to grace.
Don’t be afraid to shake off the shackles of all the things that we are being told matter, but that are simply overwhelming you.
The housework isn’t going anywhere, but their childhood is.
Yes, it’s great to clean out your home and live more simply. Yes, nourishing their little bodies with healthy meals is important. Yes, having a capsule wardrobe and using chemical-free fabric softener can be important.
But not nearly as important as your children and their hearts.
Take the time to play with your children. They’ll remember your nourishment of their hearts far more than your nourishment of their bodies.
When they are falling asleep at night, it’s the times that you played with them that day that will make their hearts smile, not the number of toys you purged from the playroom or the fact that lunch was nutritious.
I promise you this, precious mama: your children already love you just the way you are. The only thing they want is more of you.
They won’t recall what you’re wearing, or if the living room is clean. They won’t remember the perfectly balanced meal you fed them for dinner tonight.
They will remember that you chose to play with them and that they mattered enough for you to stop life for a moment and simply enjoy them.
Download this free “How To Play With Your Children” PDF
This “help sheet” provides you with 15 fun things to do with your kids, so that you can create meaningful connections with them each and every day.
- Download the free Help Sheet. You’ll get the free PDF printable from our community resource library, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just fill out this form and subscribe to get your access. They are on a bookmark, so it’s easy to check out and keep handy.
- Print it Out. Any old paper will do, but I personally print most things on cardstock so they are always easy to reference and hold up.
- Play with your children! Pick an idea and play with them. Remind them how valuable they are to you by spending time with them.
Now It’s Your Turn
Tell me what one of your favorite ways to play with your children is, or share an obstacle to doing so that you’d like help overcoming!
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