As parents, how many times have we told our kids, “Go outside and play?” Many, I’m sure. But my question today is how many times have you asked your kids: “Who wants to go play outside with me?”
When our children are babies through toddlerhood, we play with them quite often. We are on the floor playing peek-a-boo, building puzzles, coloring with crayons. But do we continue this trend once our kids start elementary school? I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that sometimes I don’t play enough with my kids, I just get too busy with everyday jobs.
Since my oldest son has started elementary school, I have been to many of the school activities and parties. There are always quite a few parents in attendance, but I’ve also noticed that sometimes the parents are paying more attention to their smartphones, than to the kids. What message is this sending? We must put our kids first in our lives, we must make them feel important, we must make time for just them without other things interrupting (phones, texting, television, computer, etc.)
This was brought to my attention a few weeks ago during my older son’s (third grade) end-of-quarter party at school. The kids were asked what kind of activities they wanted to have at their party and as a class, they decided on a parent vs. kid kickball game with snack food and drinks afterward on the patio. On the day of the party, we all gathered in the classroom before heading out to the field. The teacher spoke to everyone about why the kids chose the kickball game. The kids all talked about how busy their parents are at work and at home, they don’t have time to just play. The kids wanted an afternoon to hang out and play with their parents. It is both a sad and happy statement; it is sad that as parents, we don’t always make enough time to just hang out and play with our kids. The happy part is that they wanted to hang out and play with us. It was an awesome afternoon, both the parents and the kids had a great time, we laughed a lot, smiles all around, and genuine happiness.
I was talking with a friend (a former teacher) about this subject and she made a very interesting statement. As parents, we pay for so many activities and sports, that we expect other people (coaches, friends, etc.) to entertain and play with our kids. Often times the thought process is, “the kids have played all day, I don’t need to hang out with them,” but even sitting and watching one of their favorite shows is non-verbally telling them how important they are in our lives.
Today, I told my boys that I had to write and work this morning, but we would spend the entire afternoon together. I kept my promise; I had done enough work by noon, so we set up a picnic lunch on the floor, relaxed, watched a movie, and just enjoyed each other’s company. After the movie, there was time for homework and after homework was finished, we played games on the iPad.
This is the best time of the year for outdoor activities, go ahead and take the kids hiking, camp out in the backyard, go to the park and kick the soccer ball, bike ride around the neighborhood, or have a tea party on the patio. Remember, it doesn’t have to be anything big; they just want to hang out and play with you.
• Leah Derewicz is a 15-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.