Just last night I read the bedtime story, Beauty and the Beast, to my youngest daughter, Madeline (3 ½). I was tucking her into bed after we had finished the story, when she suddenly jumped up, dug into the little basket above her bed and pulled out “the beast” figurine, which we’ve had around our house since before she was born.
“THIS IS HIM!” She announces, overlaying the figure to the front cover of the book. She then jumps down and emphatically goes searching for Belle.
I can’t resist her excitement over this discovery! I walk over to her sister’s bed and pull the Belle figurine out of the little basket above her bed.
“Here it is.” I offer.
“Will you play with me?” She asks. “You be the beast and I’ll be Belle.”
I concede and we play for the next five minutes before I tuck her back into bed.
It seems like such a simple thing, playing in their imaginary world for just five or ten minutes at a time. Yet, it’s a challenging endeavor for us adults. I find it easier to play ball or a board game. However, being a character in an imaginary game of princesses or star wars is out of my comfort zone.
Why is it so hard to enter their world? For me, I find myself constantly thinking about something else I should be doing. However, experts recommend playing with our child/children for one hour a day so, I've given it a try over the years and have learned a few things along the way.
Playing with our child/children:
1. Gives us opportunity to train our children in how to play well together
This is particularly helpful when playing with two young children. I let them guide the play, while I guide the interactions.
2. Gives us opportunity to role-play expected behaviors
It gives us opportunity to role-play manners and character qualities we expect to see in them.
3. Builds relationship
It builds relationship between us and our children and prepares hearts to receive our instruction.
4. Fills their love tanks
When we give our children our time, they simply feel loved.
5. Sets the tone for the rest of the day (or morning, afternoon, evening).
When our children feel loved and nourished, they're more likely to play well on their own.
6. Forces us to slow down and lighten up a little
It forces us to lighten up and set aside our adult concerns and demands for a short time.
7. Provides opportunity for us to learn about our children
It provides opportunity for us to learn about our children and their hearts. How they play may say a lot about how they see the world or how they feel.
8. Teaches us how to speak their language
How our children play teaches us how to speak to them and connect with them using their lingo.
9. Affirms them
It is affirming to our children when we allow them to guide the play rather than mom and dad calling the shots all of the time.
10. Allows us to be child-like
It gets us on their level remembering, too, that this is the spirit of our character that enters the kingdom. Why not engage and become more like "such as these?"
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14
I can't say I always jump for joy at the request, but then there have been many times when I’ve been blessed by the benefits of this small sacrifice. I think it's the likelihood, that if we've made the intentional decision in advance not to turn down a reasonable request to engage our children through play, we'll do it.
So sweet mamas, let’s slow down, lighten up and go have a little fun...and while we're at it, fill a love tank with our time.
Now doesn't that make it all worth it?
- Theresa Miller, MOPS Mom
Theresa is a wife and mother of four children (3, 5, 7, and 9), who are embarking on their first year of homeschooling. Theresa has been involved in Sheridan MOPS for the last 9 ½ years, serving in multiple leadership positions, including Day MOPS Coordinator in 2007-2008. She took one year off, then started the Sheridan Evening MOPS group in September 2009. Theresa has published an article with MOPS International MOMSnext Ezine, in addition to other on-line publications. You can find Theresa encouraging mothers on her blog, Heavenly Glimpses.