Updated: May 6, 2022
If you're a working parent, or a parent of multiple children then time is scarce! Even if you have the very best intentions on being a playful parent, how can you actually find the time to play with your child?
Use the time that you already have.
There are certain jobs that parents have to do, the non-negotiables of life such as feeding your child, cleaning your child and making sure that they sleep. Build playfulness into these moments to make them feel less like chores and more like opportunities to connect and enjoy each other. If you're cooking a meal with a little one hanging off your leg, give them a pan and spoon with a handful of dry pasta and let them 'cook' along side you. Chat together about what you're making and see if you can have some fun with it. Perhaps you can put on some music and dance around the kitchen for a few minutes while the kettle boils? Those few minutes can be great vehicles for connection.
2. Choose quality over quantity
At the times that you are able to play, or build playfulness into a moment with your child, make it count - put your phone away just for a few minutes, close the laptop and clear away all distractions. Real connections are made with focus, and are much more valuable than hours of play where you are not fully present.
3. Focus on connection rather than content. So often I hear people worry that they don't know how to do 'proper' play, more often than not this translates to Insta-worthy play. Elaborate play set ups with complicated learning outcomes and expensive Montessori-inspired toys do not equal better quality play. The purpose of play is to enable a child to explore, learn and discover the world around them and by creating a warm, safe and symbiotic environment you enhance this experience ten-fold.
4. You don't have to be everything to everyone, all of the time. If you don't enjoy a certain style of play you don't have to do that with your child. It's absolutely OK to say no and suggest another activity instead. If you are someone who really does not enjoy crafting for example, you may end up resenting or even dreading time spent with your child if this is all you do together. It's a life skill to create a network of people who meet different needs for you and childhood is a good time to learn this. Nursery may be the place where your child crafts, Grandma's may be where they do messy play and you may be their small world playmate.
To conclude - identify the moments that you already have, and enjoy them with full focus. Consider the quality of the moment rather than the play content and don't beat yourself up, we are living in a busy and fast-paced society and time is a premium! If you'd like to hear more about this topic take a listen to my interview with Michaela Thomas on the Pause, Purpose Play Podcast.