I used to be THAT mom.
The mom with a curriculum for her toddler.
I finished four years of teaching before I had my son, so he became my classroom. The days were filled with endless possibilities. I had energy, motivation, excitement!
Over the years, we explored our city and made homemade alphabet books. We fed ducks at the park, strolled through art museums and baked muffins together.
Then I had a daughter and got sick. I lost track of the days and playtime went out the window.
But even when I started to improve, I was in a constant state of hurrying, like I was trying to play catch up for the years that I lost. When my daughter stopped to literally smell the roses, I asked her to pick up the pace.
One of the best things I do for myself when life starts to get hectic, is to slow down and go back to the basics. To sit and just be a mom.
To simply play with my kids without multitasking, without a time limit, without a plan.
To run out in the rain with my son.
To find roly-polies with my daughter.
To play hide and seek or paint pictures together.
To be THAT mom.
“Children teach us so much about anticipation. You can see it in how their eyes sparkle when they’re told that something interesting, anything really, is on the horizon. They wait expectantly and let their mind travel to the most extraordinary places—and they don’t try to drag it back to safety if its wandered too far. But for some reason it seems like when we all cross over into adulthood, we suddenly are no longer able to dream without boundaries. Instead we are expected to see the world in black and white, or as wise and foolish. Heartbreak and letdowns are all around us. They’re an inescapable part of life. So every chance I get, I want to teach my kids to dream and hope and expect good things. I also try to show them how to find ways to be those good things in other people’s lives.” – Chip Gaines
5 TIPS FOR PLAYING WELL
1. Schedule time to play each day and put away electronics.
When you decide to slow down and play, give them your undivided attention. Even being fully present for ten minutes of Go-Fish can make a huge difference in your child’s behavior. It also helps you to enjoy the moment instead of being mentally stuck somewhere else.
2. Get outside.
Not only is it good for the kids, it’s good for your body and mind too. Nature is the perfect place to enjoy the simple things. Last summer, I caught a giant lizard. We bought him a cage and watched him shed his skin every month and fed him crickets. The kids loved to talk to him and it was a chance for us to learn about Texas Spiny Lizards online. When he grew too big for his cage, they let him go back outside to play with his friends.
A three-legged squirrel with no tail hung out in our front yard a few years ago. We saw him during walks and named him Ninja Squirrel.
One neighbor has a ceramic goose by their front door that they dress up in different holiday outfits throughout the year. Every time we walk by, my daughter waves at “Mama Goose”.
In the spring, we fill up bird feeders. When summertime arrives, out come the sprinklers. We go on bike rides in the fall and jump in the leaves in the winter (It’s Texas y’all).
Find what makes your neighborhood unique and start your own “slow down” traditions.
3. Let your kids choose the activity.
I don’t want to play dolls or trucks for an hour. But learning to let go of control can be rewarding, even if the game they made up is ridiculously boring. The ideas your children come up with will give you insight into their social lives and their passions.
4. Be silly.
Learn to tell jokes with your kids and let loose so that they can see you as the fun person you are, not just the disciplinarian. This week I spent time practicing karate moves with my son and tap dancing with my daughter. I was pretty terrible at it, but they didn’t seem to notice.
5. Be creative.
I love teaching my kids how to do things from my childhood like making paper airplanes, telling jokes and doing magic tricks. I taught my daughter how to hold water in a straw with her finger the other day and she thought I was a genius. My son was amazed to learn how to shoot paper off a straw. I haven’t got to spit balls yet. It doesn’t take much.
SO WHAT DO YOU WANT TO PLAY?
Back when I was THAT mom, I had a blog with lists of activities for young children. Use it as a starting point to slow down or come up with your own ideas.
- Educational Activities
- Pretend Play
- Theme Days
- Art Projects
- Monthly Activities
- Learn a Letter a Week
- Toddler School
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When you slow down, life becomes much simpler.
You’ve got this!