Parent-Child Play: What Gets in the Way?

Barriers to Parent-Child Play: An Overview

Greetings from You Can Too, Mom!

A Blog on Joy-Filled and Purposeful Parenting

Dear Moms,

It’s a myth that parent-child play comes easily to all loving parents.

It doesn’t. In fact (children, avert your eyes), it can often be exasperating, messy, uninteresting to parents, or exhausting. Gasp! Can a parent actually admit that? And can that be changed?

Do you or your children ever butt heads during playtimes, due to personality conflicts? Or find that certain activities didn’t work as expected because they didn’t match you or your kids’ interests, needs, or abilities?

You may love to play, but lack time and energy for it.  Or you may feel uncomfortable with play in general, especially spontaneous play.  Perhaps you wonder— do parents need to play, when kids can play with each other? If so, why? What qualifies as play?

Instead of guilting you into playing because it’s good for your kids, I hope to persuade you to play because it’s good for you, too. Parenting can be a challenging and stressful job. It can also be rewarding and joy-producing. If you become more enthusiastic about play and more eager to spend one-on-one time with your children, they naturally benefit.

Back when my first child was about four years old (he’s 23 now!) a discouraged parent asked me, “How do you know how to play with your kid like that?” and “How is it that you have so much fun together?”

I found that question thought-provoking.

When my second child, a daughter was born, and I had more to juggle. I discovered personality differences between us all, and experienced time and energy limits that impacted my ability to play as much as I had with my first child. When child #3 came along, it got even busier. I also ended up refereeing more than I expected, which certainly was NOT fun. But I also discovered pure joy in playing with each of my children, in ways that impact me to this very day. They have helped shape who I am, as a person.

It turned out that all three of my kids grew up, in a sense, in a living laboratory, raised by a mom who was probably more introspective about play than the average parent. How many other moms jump up from a game of UNO to jot down successes and failures? I thought more about what works, and what doesn’t. This was also naturally impacted by my work (at that time) in the field of Occupational Therapy. I’ll explain that more in future blogs. But in a nutshell, it causes me to think more about the process of play: what works, what doesn’t, what kids learn, and how relationships are impacted.

Upcoming blogs will be a mix of excerpts from my parenting books and articles, other resources, and responses to your comments. Let me know how YOU feel about play!

Today’s blog was excerpted from The Power of Parent-Child Play, Chapter 1

Copyright 2003-2009, Laurie Winslow Sargent

Laurie Winslow Sargent
Author Website:
Web TV Show: You Can Too, Mom! on the Family and Parenting Channel at WebTV4Women

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