My daughter has a lot of nice things to play with, and yet I hate nearly all of them.
She has princess toys, dress up clothes, puzzles, matching games, doctor kits, trucks, dolls…you name it. And there’s very few out of that list that I like.
The ones I hate the most have digitized music sounds that get stuck in your head and stay there long after you’re done with the toy. Fairly often I find myself humming a song from one of her toys over a song from the radio while I’m spacing out in front of the sink or while folding clothes.
I also dislike the ones that encourage imaginary play because I, too, find this mind numbing. There’s only so many times I can pretend that a crayon is a princess who needs to run inside a castle with her marker-princess friend to escape an imaginary storm (and that’s the extent of this game, and an actual game I’m forced to play. Just repeat, ad nauseam, and you have my typical Tuesday afternoon.) I know this imaginative play is good for her developmentally, but it doesn’t take much before I’m inventing a chore I MUST complete at that exact moment to escape.
Perhaps the biggest piece of this momfession is that I hate my daughter’s toys because I’m the designated one to play with her. Being home with her full time, it’s one of the primary duties of my stay-at-home-mom gig. Also, as an only child, she lacks a live-in playmate. So yes, there are days I suck it up and play with the toys and with her, because don’t we all have parts of our jobs we dislike but are required to do anyway?
But because I do enjoy spending time with my daughter, want to be an active part of her day, and chose to be home with her full-time in part because of that, I’ve found ways to make play more tolerable, and here’s how:
1. Rotate toys
I have toys hidden in the basement that my daughter has forgotten she’s received for Christmas and her birthday. Every so often, when she’s particularly attached to one toy I can no longer tolerate, I’ll pull out a toy from the basement that’s new to us both. Exploring the new toy passes the time, breaks the monotony, and gives us something new to do together.
2. Make stuff
One thing I don’t tire of is creating things. Whether we’re painting, drawing, coloring or cooking, I’m all for it. Luckily, my daughter is of an age where she loves to help and these crafty pursuits are interesting for her, so as long as they don’t take too long, she’s an eager artist, chef and baker. Plus, usually with these activities we have a product in the end we can either eat, like a smoothie or banana bread, or something to play with, like homemade play dough, so that helps to fill up our day, too.
3. Get out of the house as much as possible
I run nearly all of my errands with my daughter, because I think she needs to learn to be patient through those types of things (but oh man, can that backfire sometimes!) but I also try to switch up our scenery and environment with fun activities as well. Walks in the stroller, trips to the library, playground or pool, and playing in the yard help us explore new things and be around other people. Next on our list this summer is to go berry picking before the season is over.
4. Playdates, playdates, playdates
Playdates are great for the both of us. She has a chance to socialize with other kids her age, and I get a break from play and can chat with the other parents. It’s just a win-win.
5. Set boundaries
One thing I learned through conversation with the other bloggers on this site is that it’s okay to set boundaries in play with your kids. IT’S OKAY to not like one activity that they’re into, and encourage your child to do that one thing on their own. You are each your own person, after all. This also helps my daughter learn to play independently and demonstrates to her that there are things we can do in each other’s company without having to do them together. One way to accomplish this is to additionally offer an activity you would be willing to do together once they are done with the independent activity. For example you can say, “You can play with your crayon-princesses by yourself for a while, and when I’m done folding this laundry, we can make a painting together.” It may take a couple tries to get them to understand this way of spending time together, but it’s a strategy I will employ to avoid burnout and total boredom.