It’s no secret that playing really isn’t my thing. Actually, I hate playing. I loathe getting down on the floor and acting out scenes with dolls and when I hear the worlds “lets pretend” I just want to go and hide in the toilet. But do you know what? None of that makes me a bad mum. It’s possible to spend time with your child without leaping around the house, pretending that you’re Batman. Here are my top 7 alternatives to play.
Enjoy the everyday stuff
Some of the best chats I have with my kids are when we’re out running errands together. Something about being under no pressure to entertain seems to make us both relaxed and the way that children notice things we don’t means the conversation just flows. The same seems to be true of doing chores. For reasons best known to themselves, kids love helping with the housework so why not capitalise on that and make doing the cleaning time spent together.
Singing or dancing
While I’ve always enjoyed music, I didn’t realise how much I enjoyed actually singing until I had children. When they were both small, it was the only thing that entertained both of them at the same time. While our singing only consisted of some pretty out of tune nursery rhymes, it was one of the first things I discovered I enjoyed doing with my baby when dealing with postnatal depression.
Once the kids are a bit older, dancing is a great alternative to play. Even if dancing isn’t your thing, putting some music on and asking your kid to show you their moves is a win win, they burn off some energy and you get to watch them being cute.
I loved baking before having children and that hasn’t changed. While cooking with the kids isn’t for everyone, it is a great way to get that “good Mummy” glow without having to pretend to rock a baby doll to sleep. Plus you get to eat the results, so bonus. The only caveat to this is it’s really best done with one child at a time, baking with two kids who are fighting over who gets to crack the eggs is a recipe for disaster.
Take them out
Personally, I like my kids much more out of the house than I do in it. My favourite thing to do is go out for tea and cake with them (because I get to eat cake, obviously). The cheapest way to do this is to head for your local supermarket cafe. If you pick the right one you’ll get tea, a free babychino and a cake each under £3.
The park is a great free place to go but must be handled with care. For my kids, the park is the ideal place to pretend to be the Pj Masks. I’ve discovered the best way to avoid this is to set them challenges. “How high can you swing” “how many times can you go down the slide in two minutes” etc. If you’re the energetic type you might even challenge them to a race.
Days out with kids are a great alternative to play but can be expensive (although you can save money with my advice) but some free things that you might enjoy together are feeding the ducks, nature trails and local museums and art galleries are often free.
Explore your hobbies with them
Obviously, if your hobby is chain saw art then this might be a no go but most hobbies can be explored with children to some degree. While I’m not a crafter I do love process art, where the process of creation is part of the art and you never know what effect you’ll end up so that’s a good alternative to play for me. Chris loves football and the kids are always happy to go and have a kick around with him.
If you enjoy exercise then, once the kids are old enough, they might be happy to run or swim with you. The outdoor gym at the park is a big hit with my kids. If you love animals you might consider a pet that you could spend time together looking after (until they lose interest and you have to look after it yourself, obviously).
You might also consider getting involved in some kind of volunteering together, for example litter picking or fundraising. These can be a great way of giving back to the community and setting a good example for your children.
I love books and think books are one of the best alternatives to play. Being a former librarian and bookseller, that’s hardly surprising. Luckily for me, my kids do too. From the “my first book” black and white book of faces I bought my kids when they were born, the board books of the toddler years, the picture books at preschool, the fairy tales and now the real juicy chapter books, I’ve loved every minute of reading with my children and I think they have too.
One of my favourite things is to take them to library and let them choose books for themselves, which also gets us out of the house. I also love introducing them to books I loved as a child, even if I do have to edit some of them as I read to avoid scaring my children with takes of corporal punishment!
Look at photos together
Weather they are photos of me as a child, pictures of them as babies or the photos we took at the zoo last week, my kids love looking at photos. We can spend ages altogether flicking through albums or scrolling through my phone and it really is one of my favourite alternatives to play. Just make sure you remove that picture of yourself with a cigarette in one hand a pint in the other and wearing a skirt that barely covers your knickers from your 18th birthday.
Those are my top 7 alternatives to play with my children. I’d love to know what your favourite ways of spending time with your children are.
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