There is hardly a person on the planet that doesn’t like the opportunity to play. Of course, the term “play” has varying meanings at varying ages. For instance, play to a two-year-old might mean whacking a bowl with a mixing spoon, while play to a 10-year-old might mean hours of meticulously building multi-thousand-piece Lego lands. A teenager? Often sports come to mind, while in the world of adults – at least for me – it has often meant long motorcycle trips or quietly fishing by the lake. To my wife? Drop her off at any local décor super store and she can happily play all day.
Just how important is play and playing with our kids? I don’t simply mean the battle over “going outside vs. staying inside game,” either. Is it about what our children are playing, or is it more about the fact they are playing and that we, as parents, are encouraging and engaging as well?
I get being a young man who is also a young parent. In the very season of life I was trying to navigate my way through a career path, my wife and I eagerly also brought into the task of navigating the parenting path as well. The trend for “career first, family second” may be on the upswing, but that blueprint never crossed our life desks. We didn’t want to wait for kids, and the kids would have to eat... so, the balancing began. With long days and sometimes long nights of working, just seeing my kids, let alone playing with them, seemed a monumental feat. I learned playtime didn’t have to involve loading up the minivan with a picnic basket and sports’ gear in a run for the local park for an entire afternoon. It’s a great gig if you can make it happen, but when you can’t, there’s hope.
While organized play was a huge part of our boys’ childhoods (and might I add the one non-athlete’s marching band camps and practices rivaled the rigor and fun the two athletes’ baseball, basketball, and football endeavors offered), impromptu play proved to be their favorite. To this day, my grown sons rarely mention a thing about one of the many sporting activities or all-day family play outings, but rather they recall the five-minute, nightly, free-for-alls. They can give a true “play-by-play” about these encounters.
Kids are smart. Kids know. Kids are wise enough to know that sometimes dads work long hours and can’t coach their teams and can’t take an entire afternoon to go to the park. That’s when they’re smart enough to know that those minutes in which a tired, hard-working dad turns into a goofy Godzilla to make brushing teeth and going to bed more fun are some of the most meaningful play dates they will ever have.
For me, the bottom line was that I just wanted to connect with my boys whenever and however I could. In the midst of all this, I learned something very important; the power of play can never be underestimated. Sure, hard work is the foundation of an ethic that can move our kids to success. If you can’t enjoy what you work for and find enjoyment in what your life has to offer, what’s the point?
So, my family and I chose to “play” and enjoy this adventure we call life. And, more importantly... we do it whenever possible! Looking back, it is one of most important ingredients to our family bond.
Five Tips for Maximizing Playtime With Your Kids:
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a kid growing up in a small town, I loved to play sports. I began playing baseball at a young age, then football, basketball, bowling and track. I not only enjoyed playing, but watching sports on TV or in person, as well. I knew when I had kids of my own, I would steer them in the direction of athletics as soon as possible.
When I married my wife, I became a stepfather, of Leah, age 7, and Alex, age 5. They had not yet been introduced to sports, but I quickly signed them up for different things. I instantly knew Leah had some athletic ability. She did well in everything she tried. Alex, on the other hand, not so much. When it came to baseball, he preferred to build dirt castles on the field so he could kick them down. When he wasn’t doing that, he was chasing butterflies and grasshoppers. He had no interest in the baseball aspect, which was fine, but every year, when I’d ask if he wanted to play, he always said yes.
We tried Mighty Mites football when he was old enough, and again, he was the kid dancing during the game and stacking cones on the sidelines. He had no interest in the sport at all. I signed him up for soccer, which I knew nothing about because it not offered to me as a kid. Though I did not know anything about the game, I did know running in circles and trying to play tag with your teammates during the game, was not part of the competition.
I thought maybe bowling would be more his jam. Sadly, he would walk up, chuck the ball down the lane, and instantly turn around, with zero care as to where the ball would end up.
Alex continued to play sports through grade school, mostly because he knew he would get a medal at the end of the season and snacks after games.
Once he hit junior high, Alex began to get into things like horticulture and wanted to join band. These are two things I never did, but I was happy to invest my time and money if he enjoyed these activities. He did not try out for a single sport in junior high until 8th grade when he found out he couldn’t be cut from the track team. About two weeks into practice, he had a little mishap, and broke his elbow. His junior high athletic career was over!
The summer break between 8th grade and high school, Alex played a lot of backyard football with friends. He fell in love with it and told me he was ready to try out for the football team. As happy as I was to hear it, I also knew he would be so far behind all the other kids who had been playing for years. I warned him of the uphill battle he was about to enter. He went ahead and tried out and made the team, though he only played a few minutes in one game. He still loved it and wants to play again next season.
He joined Jr. ROTC and stuck with band his freshman year. I had no idea how much time and money goes into high school band. There are band camps during the summer, practicing before and after school, and out of town band competitions every weekend. I tried to be there to support him while also getting my other two children to their sporting events and practices.
Although I would prefer to be watching him hit a baseball or drain a three pointer, I will continue to support him in whatever it is that makes him happy as he makes his way through high school and beyond. I've learned we can try to raise our children to share our interests, but it is also very important to support them in their choices, and I can credit Alex with helping me learn this. Here are three quick tips to get started:
From there, you're armed with a better understanding of what interests your child, and you can learn more about it and find ways to talk to them about it. Or if it's an activity you can even make plans to join them in doing it sometime. The important thing is that they'll know you're paying attention to them and that they have your support, and that's invaluable in creating a bond that will last a lifetime.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO.
Ask yourself right now, “What kind of person do you want your child to grow up to be?” Would you like your children to be good at sports or music, math or science? What if you were to say, “I want my child to be a generous person.”
Children are amazing. They can be taught amazing things. Children can be taught to kick a soccer ball, set a volleyball, and hit a golf ball. Children can be taught to play the violin, skate forward and backwards, and operate a handheld electronic device. Children can also be taught to be generous and to put the needs of others before their own. Children can be taught to appreciate what they have. Children can be taught to share.
If our children are going to be generous then generosity needs to be the lifestyle and cultural value of our home. Generosity does not just happen by wishing or wanting it. Generosity needs to be as high a passion and priority as the other high passions and priorities of your life. Generosity takes work and effort.
For you and me to raise generous children requires more than a casual conversation or a handful of change in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas. We need to help our children set tangible and sacrificial goals with clear objectives that benefit others in need. Our children will benefit from knowing that they are blessed beyond measure and that their generosity makes a difference in the lives of others.
Here are three ways I have taught my children to be generous. I want to stress, however, that generosity is not just doing projects and generous things. Generosity is being a generous person from the inside out.
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Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com