5 Tips For Having Fun Playing With Your Kids


A few weeks ago, some friends came over who have a ten-year old daughter who my daughter loves playing with. Watching the two of them play together made me reflect on just how much stamina children have for playing with each other. They could carry on for hours. For me on the other hand, after a while I get drained and ‘bored’ by play. I desperately want to do something other than play, like tidy up the house, clean the kitchen, or zone out on my computer.

But I also know that deep down my feelings are not really because I find my daughter’s play ‘boring’ or because I can’t play or don’t like to play. Actually I love spending her time in her imaginary world, sharing her joy and creativity. But I do get drained after a while.

Why is play so hard for us? Is it because we know we’ve got a million and one jobs to do in our busy lives? For sure. but there’s more to it than that.We all have moments in our days when we get triggered by our children. Play can often be one of those times. We start to feel exhausted, we start to feel stressed, we find it hard to muster the enthusiasm.

Play is hard because when we were children our parents may not have spent hours playing with us. They may have been busy just getting on with things, and may not have understand how important it was simply to be there with us. There may have been times when we wished they could give us more quality attention. We may have given up even expecting it.

When we spend time with our children, it’s as if we have an invisible river of our own childhood memories running through us. We not be conscious of these memories, but they are there, beneath the surface, often getting triggered when we are stressed or overwhelmed. So when our child says ”play with me,” we can often feel reluctant to leap up and join them because we have our own hurt child inside of us who didn’t get all the play and connection we needed.

But there’s nothing innately non-playful about any of us. We can recover our natural joy and have fun playing with our kids.

Here are a few things that you can try.

  1. Have some grown up fun! Recovering our own sense of fun, can be really helpful. Go to a live music or comedy gig. Have drinks with friends. Dance to the songs you loved when you were younger. Life gets pretty serious sometimes for adults. But it doesn’t have to be.
  2. Have some listening time – Exchanging time talking and listening with another parent about how parenting is going Tell your listening partner how much you ‘hate’ playing with your kids. Talk, moan, even scream into a pillow about how hard it is. Have a laugh or cry if you need to. After expressing your feelings with a partner you may find that these feelings are not your thoughts, and that you actually don’t hate playing. Yo may just need to release some of your own emotional baggage to find the joy in it.
  3. Play in short bursts. Don’t give yourself a hard time, or pretend to enjoy playing when you aren’t actually in the mood. Your child will pick up on your feelings, and it’s likely neither of you will have much fun. Instead try shorts bursts of special time, (1-1 time with a child doing something of their choice) that feel manageable to you. Even 5 minutes can deepen the connection with your child, and make you both feel better. You can gradually extend your capacity for play, as you get listened to, and work through your feelings about play.
  4. Let your agenda slide. If possible try to have some lazy days where you aren’t running around, and can just hang out and enjoy the company of your children. Is there anything non-essential you can leave off your to-do list? Get some ready meals in and leave the washing up till tomorrow. I always find I’m at my most playful when we’re at home with little to do. After I’ve nurtured myself with adult company, and my cup is full I’ll try to have a mellow day at home where we just chill out, connect and play.
  5. Have some adult-to-adult special time – The first time I tried special time with another adult I was amazed how much fun it was, and how novel it felt to have someone shine their attention on me while I got do whatever I wanted. You can try this with a friend or your partner, so that you can nourish yourself with the deep sense of connection that you want to give your children.

I hope these tips help you to enjoy playing with your kids. I love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment about how you get on.

For more tips on play and connection with your kids, check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children


21 thoughts on “5 Tips For Having Fun Playing With Your Kids

  1. Hey there! I empathise completely with how hard it can be to get motivated to play, especially when you feel exhausted and I agree it is to do with our childhoods. I feel very low sometimes, like when I’m asked to bounce on the trampoline at 9pm..,but I force myself, fake it till you make it type attitude. I take my time out when they are busy in an iPad, watching a movie or playing the PlayStation.
    I try and say ‘yes’ as much as possible when they actually ask me to play with them. I find if they know you are available when they ask, they ask less.
    The more we work on our family life being fun and our source of joy, the less we need to be away from family members to recharge and the less we will need drinks with adults to feel happy again. Playing with our kids can actually be recharging for us 🙂 As they get older too their hobbies will be more interesting and fun for us, more than playing matchbox cars can be 😉

    1. thank you for sharing Sarah. And thanks for the reminder to say yes as much as possible. I’m working on this too, and now I’m recalling that yesterday I was saying, I’m busy doing this blah blah blah” a lot of the time so i need to remember that! I too do some things for myself while my daughter’s on her ipad, but most of my work (writing) takes such a high level of concentration, that I can only do it when I’m completely alone. How old are your kids? Mine is 4, and I still feel like I need to stay close by a lot of the time. I’m trying to get to the stage where it is really enjoying playing with my daughter for longer periods. The other thing that surprisingly helped was giving up caffeine, that’s helped me relax and focus on being rather than doing. Nice to connect, I’m glad I discovered your blog!

      1. My two are 8 and 4 in the next month. It sounds like you are doing wonderfully Kate, I appreciate you putting your thoughts out there too!

  2. Yey for this article. I have been wondering why it feels to hard sometimes but also why I love to be in the moment and watch/ be part of his play.

  3. My two will be 8 and 4 in the next month. It sounds like you are doing wonderfully, thanks for taking the time to reply. TC

  4. I think I get caught up with a million of things to do all over the house that sometimes I just don’t think of how important it is for them to play tigether, specially when I’m tired and they ask me to go on the trampoline after 7pm, which I’m beat up by them. Thank you for this post. Very eye opening and helpful.

  5. This is so helpful to hear, I get fed up of being BumbleBee from transformers with my 4 year old! I also find it hard when my attention is divided between my 4 year old and 2 year old. I am trying to figure out the kind of activities they both enjoy doing at the same time as this seems to make it easier to be in the moment and engage in play with them. I agree, life can get too serious as an adult and it is important to find your own sense of fun to get into the zone. I feel like I’m still trying to figure it all out so it is great to hear some tips.

    1. I know, it’s hard. I think with all our adult responsibilities, it’s really tough to stay playful sometimes. I’m glad the tips are helpful. I have a four year old too and their capacity for imaginative play can be pretty intense! I find Hand in Hand parenting helps a lot.

  6. I’m really guilty of not playing enough with my two. my 3 year old is very much go go GO all the time. you have really made me think about taking time out with both of them together and individually to play. #dreamteam x

  7. Some really love tips. I absolutely love play time, does that make me a big kid? It actually helps me to unwind and de-stress. Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam x

    1. It’s great that you enjoy it! Sometimes I do and sometimes I feel like I need some adult time to meet my own needs. If I’m in a good mood to start it helps.

  8. Funnily enough I posted last week on how I decided to build an indoor forte with my kids, my girls weren’t interested, but my 6 year old son was so excited, we had such fun, but I did get bored, we ended up on our devices after a while, me checking emails and him playing a game. I felt guilty about getting bored. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only parent who feels that way #brandnewday

  9. The beginning points in this post are so thought-provoking and I can so see how there is this ‘invisible river’ – almost a resentment of ‘well my parents’ generation didn’t really play with us, so why do you want us to play with you so much?’ That sounds dreadfully harsh to say out loud but I can observe such thoughts creeping in sometimes now you mention it. I think the agenda thing is so important – I played so much with my niece when she was little but then I was in my early 20s and had very little responsibility whereas in your own home with all that’s going on now…well it’s different. Short bursts are definitely the way forward – sometimes I put the cooker clock on for 10 mins to make sure that all I do in that time is stay on the floor with the girls and play whatever they want…. Such an interesting post. #ABrandNewDay. x

  10. My son just turned one. His play is really starting to evolve now and how he plays is very interesting. I love to play with him but do agree that every now and then you’re right it does get a little tedious. Thanks for letting us know this is normal!! Thanks for linking up to #abrandnewday

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