Playing with your children is one of the best ways to connect to your children.
Last year I wrote about how to how to devote unstructured playtime with our children. Now, that I have four children, I don’t have as much time to play with my children.
When our family first grew to include more children, I found it impossible to spend time playing with each child alone.
It upset me that I couldn’t share this special time of play with each child. I knew that our first daughter, who was accustomed to lots of attention from me, missed it. And I realized this would be an amazing way to bond with our new children.
I tried different ways to figure out how to make Mommy-Child playtime work, until I developed a routine that works for us.
How to Develop a Parent-Child Play Routine in Large Families
- Start Small – I give each child 5 minutes of unstructured playtime with me almost every day. I feel this is the amount of time I can depend on the other children not interrupting Mommy playtime. As my children mature, I hope to increase the time.
- Choose a Location – We have our one on one playtime in the backyard. This is a place where the kids play more independently and cooperatively, and I can easily monitor the other children’s safety without it taking away the special playtime from the child I am playing with.
- Pick a Time – Initially, I tried Mommy-Child playtime after dinner. I found that our children are more needy at this time of day, and the playtime was always being interrupted by another child. Now, playtime with Mommy is in the afternoon after snack time. We have this playtime almost every day, and I find the consistent routine has made it easier for my children to adapt to it.
- Develop a Discipline Plan – I explain to the children that when Mommy is playing with one of their siblings during special playtime, they are not to interrupt our playtime. I give examples of what interrupting looks like such as fighting with another sibling, trying to talk to Mommy, or following around Mommy and the other sibling. When one child interrupts, I enforce a logical consequence. That child loses a minute of playtime with Mommy because they took away playtime from their sibling. I explain it’s not fair for them to make their sibling lose her special time with Mommy.
- Expect Some Trial and Error – It took awhile before I figured out a way to make one on one playtime work for our family. Families with kids who play well independently may find it easier to fit parent-child playtime into their daily schedules.
- Choose an Activity for the Other Children – My other children are engaged in unstructured outdoor play while I play with their sibling. They have learned to play independently fairly well, and it is something they can focus on without needing my attention. This means I can devote my attention to the child I am playing with at the time. You may need to pick a different activity for your children if they don’t play well independently such as reading, coloring, or building with blocks.
How do you make time for one on one free playtime with your children? What routines work for you?