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Parenting: Playing to Learn, Playing to Connect, Playing for Fun

Play is the Business of Children – it helps physical, mental, social, and emotional development. It also fosters the parent-child connection – as they say “families that play together, stay together“. It makes sense that we should play with our children more and use it as a tool for reaching them on various parenting issues we face.

Unfortunately, play can be hard for some adults. Despite the fact that we used to play for hours as children, we seem to have forgotten how the activity works. Either that or we’re just too tired to play any more…

Play on the Go

Finding time to play with the kids can be tricky. Sometimes, even if you do catch a bit of spare time in your day, all you probably want to do is to descend into a coma-like state while your body and mind recovers sufficiently for you to take on the next task – at least that’s what I want to do. The last thing you feel like doing is climbing on all fours pretending you’re a horse or run after your child in a game of cat and mouse.

That’s where imaginative play on the go comes in…

When I was a child, I remember spending hours on end engaged in an imaginary world. If we had to go out, my world simply came with me. We (my cousin and I) would ride our flying horses in the car. We would save the world in a restaurant. No place was out of bounds for imaginative play.

Now when we’re preparing to leave the house for school, we can be loading our spaceship for another mission to save the galaxy (Star Wars themes are Aristotle’s favourite right now). When I drop him off at school, I’m really dropping him off at an Imperial base for an undercover mission. We slink down corridors hiding from battle droids. One time we were riding the rails in the Spice Mines of Kessel to the control room where we could disarm the explosive charges set by the Separatists. When we shower, we’re entering the bacta tank to heal our battle wounds. When Hercules has fallen asleep and I have to carry him from the car, we pretend that Captain Skywalker has been injured and needs to be taken to the medical bay. Anything goes.

We no longer have to find time to play because we’re almost always playing. When I engage his imagination in play, Aristotle never asks for the iPad for entertainment because this is so much more fun. Unfortunately, the scenarios don’t always work for Hercules so we need to spend a bit more solid playing time with him. However, I find incorporating play into all the things we have to do helps to manage the disappointment when the boys want to play but I have other chores to handle – like preparing dinner.

Sometimes when Daddy comes home, he picks up where I left off and continues his own versions of the play scenarios Aristotle and I have created together. Daddy inputs a fresh twist to the story which injects a bit of humour because his ideas are always cookier. Instead of playing the traditional characters, he might be Darth Mole instead of Darth Maul, or Count Cuckoo instead of Count Dooku. Instead of using a lightsaber, Darth Mole shoots lightning out of his behind. You see what I mean?

In the past week that we have been playing on the go, we have been having a lot of fun (myself included much to my surprise) and I have noticed a significant improvement in behaviour – especially Aristotle’s. It has been easier to get the boys to do what I want when I change the scenario rather than falling back to the old routine of nagging. It helps me lighten the mood when it gets too moody and it’s better than getting angry and frustrated. Playing on the go hasn’t solved all my parenting problems but it has been sufficiently beneficial for me to persist with it.

If you like this idea, perhaps you would like to “Pass the Play“, an idea we learned about from MochaDad.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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