Playing To Have Fun

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Happy February! We live in Wisconsin and January is always the hardest winter month. It usually starts out with Christmas hang overs for everyone and then launches into cold gloomy days that drag on. This winter we have been trying to embrace the long winter months by doing a  few things like getting outside no matter how cold it is (even 5 minutes in 0 degrees can put a positive spin on my day), and finding new indoor activities to keep us entertained on the dark cold winter nights. Boardgames play a huge part in keeping us busy and happy, and it didn’t take long for me to realize the benefits that having a family game night had on my relationship with my kids as well as with my partner.

In my son’s early years, I would often fall asleep reading him books at bedtime, or I would lay down to play cars or blocks with him and would find my mind wandering and wandering. I’d feel bad, and guilty, why am I not taking pleasure in doing these activities with him? Why does Curious George bore me to sleep? I’m sure some of it was sheer sleep deprivation (the kid didn’t start sleeping more than 2 hours straight until he was 3) but I still felt like I should enjoy playing and reading to my child more than I did. When he was two I had my daughter, and I had a little bit of time to observe how Jake (my husband, father to our children, and co-creator in DoodleMash) interacted with our son while I was caring for our daughter.  I started to notice a few things, he really enjoyed doing things with our son like painting/doing art (one of my favorite pictures of him painting in Jake’s studio pictured above), building blocks, and making game out of anything, literally anything. When our son started potty training they made a game called bathroom baseball to keep him sitting on the toilet, or balancing cutlery at restaurants while we waited for our food.  These activities would occupy a very active little boy for 30, sometimes 40 minutes, which astounded me.  I also noticed that Jake was very engaged in these activities. As bedtime would arrive and out came Curious George or Clifford, I would see Jake’s eyes glass over and his speech slur as he too, would start to fall asleep reading. Again, I’m sure part of it was sleep deprivation of having two young kids, but it really got me thinking. Why did he enjoy playing with our son and could do it for 30-40 minutes and I struggled with 15? Playing cars wasn’t my thing, building blocks wasn’t my thing either, but that year our son got  tangrams as a gift. I loved tangrams as a kid, and didn’t even realize that I could easily spend 20 minutes making patterns with him. We’d make our own and join them and would only stop when we’d get frustrated because the other took the last of a block to complete our pattern.

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As time continued on Curious George turned into fairy tales, fables, creative books series that we both enjoyed I looked forward to going to the library to pick out books to read at night. Something else happened around this time, he started to play basic games. Memory, go fish, Old Maid,and other kids classics. We started playing together for fun, not because I felt it was something I had to do as a parent. There it was, books I enjoyed, activities I enjoyed, games I enjoyed. Before I knew it our youngest was old enough to start playing these basic games too and family game night was started. We don’t always play board games, sometimes it soccer, baseball, charades, or something wacky one of the kids made up, but we play.

For anyone that’s a parent, as I wrote this I did a bit of digging and found a few decent reads on playing with kids and the benefits of games.

What games do you play? How do you bring fun into your life?

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