How Long Should I Play With My Child Everyday?


“When I get home, after work, being absent all day, I feel obligated to play with my children, but after a while, one, two or even half an hour, I'm crazy to stop. It always seems to me that my friends seem to have more patience than me. What can I do?”  Mom question

What I consider it important to discuss is the WAY by which the question is made: "I feel obliged", "my friends have more patience". The parents frequently mention this type of concern. It is natural that when parents are away from home all day and the children at daycare or school meeting at home at night, there is a moment to BE TOGETHER to EXCHANGE the experiences lived separately in the day.

There is, in fact, a need to COMPENSATE the child effectively for the long absence. The love and attention shown in these moments are important to the emotional balance, especially for the young child.

They have not yet grasped the meaning of this daily routine and may really need a REAFFIRMATION, let us say, of love and the dedication of the parents. So it is good that you devote this time to your children. But if this is done ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY  BY OBLIGATION, that is, if you do not feel any pleasure in that contact, then it is likely to be ineffective.

The child has a very sensitive feeling, and is perfectly capable of realizing that you are something - in this case play with it - and this feeling (realizing that
you do not like to play with her) can be confused with "do not like me".

So the first thing to consider is that the child really needs the parent's attention, but on the other hand, it is also very important to remember that she realizes when we are not doing something authentically, pleasantly.

The Child Knows When You - Father or Mother - Are Happy

So, first of all, we need to think of "how" we are in the mood when we play with our children: if we really enjoy it, Perfect! Nothing to change.

But if you admit (even if only to yourself) that you HATE or you just TOLERATE playing, then things are quite different. The important thing is to establish a  CONNECTION with the child, not an obligation to play with her. Personally, I love playing with children, mine or not. But no mature adult can “be” a child for long. We are able and love to play for, I do not know, half an hour, one, two even! Then we want and need to "become an adult again". And it is normal for it to be so.

Can you imagine if all the adults suddenly acted like children again? We must play, yes, whenever we feel like it. When not, there are other forms quite satisfactory for both sides.  Why not stay BESIDE the children, reading the newspaper, talking to them or watching a movie while they play with their little games or dolls? Say "Come to play around here while I do the dishes "or" Bring your toy and stay here with Dad while I read the newspaper”… 

This will show to the child that her company is desired and appreciated. A lot more efficient and productive than play trying to disguise the impatience... On the other hand, children have an almost inexhaustible capacity to repeat the same game over and over. When they like a type of activity, they repeat and repeat, without ever getting tired. Already we adults, no. We get bored, we want to stop, after one or two games of ping-pong, for example. But they don’t ...

Then fear, insecurity and guilt enter. Fear of failing, guilt for not have been available to the child for the entire day (even if we worked nonstop 9 to 6) and insecurity about how to act to be a modern father, a "good enough" father, etc.

Let's consider balance: our parents and grandparents rarely "sat down to
play" with their children. Our generation, already under the positive influence of
knowledge that psychology has brought us, knows the importance of playing,
to live with the children more intimately and personally.

But it is forgotten how important the authenticity in the relationship is. Of course, with small sacrifices on the part of adults, because some really do not like to play
with children, and yet they do so quite frequently, aiming to meet a need of the children.

I think most parents want to be available, available to give children some time each day. That’s extremely positive. What do not implies exaggeration "playing games from the time they arrive at home until the time they fall asleep”.

The important is to be aware to nurture a BOND, and a real CONNECTION with the little person they have in front of them.