Three games and three good reasons to play
How important is it to play with your kids? What sort of games should you play? How much and when do you play?
I presented a 1 hour workshop around these questions in December last year at Uitkyk Wine estate for about 40 parents and kids. For 30 minutes we all played together, and then the kids went to play freely at the newly installed jungle gym while I chatted to parents on the importance and difficulties of playing with your kids.
This article will review 3 active games you can play with your kids from age 1 to 11. Each game is used to illustrate a different reason for playing. In a next article I will share with you 3 main obstacles that block our efforts to play with our kids.
1. Ring a rosies – surviving twilight
This game was invented during the time of the black plague. Game playing in times of twilight helps us deal with the pain and uncertainty. Illness is a typical twilight zone where you do not know if you will die or live, whether your loved ones will make it or not. A game helps us to gain distance from the discomfort and reflect on it in a way that helps us gain a certain measure of control.
The best time for playing games like this with your kids is the first 10 minutes when you are home from work just before you start cooking or doing other stuff. Or maybe while you are waiting for someone to arrive or something to happen and you have 10 minutes to kill. A small amount of time in the right place will distress a whole evening or afternoon.
I know it is really hard to switch off your to do lists and your chores in order to play a little – really hard. I struggle myself sometimes. Allow your kids to drag you from your head space into the present moment and you will also distress a little. I keep having to learn this lesson myself over and and over again.
Another big twilight zone for your child is bedtime. The looming darkness of the night can be terrifying. Playing a game or reading a story in this time will be of great comfort for your child.
2. Pigs and wolves – knowing who to be and who not to be
This game is an invention of my own that helps kids and adults deal with conflicting roles. One person out of 4 or 5 is wolf, the other are pigs. The wolf tries to catch a pig and when he does, he turns into a pig and the pig takes on the wolf role.
Working from home not knowing if you are a house husband or a business man, needing to be a lover and a life partner not knowing when to be the lover and when to be the wife, or home schooling not knowing when to be a teacher and when to be a parent are all examples of the kinds of role related twilight zones we find ourselves in. I know these twilight zones myself so well and had to come up with a game to help me and my family through the stresses of balancing opposites within us.
Not to mention our kids. They want to do it themselves and get help at the same time, they want to be a big boy and still be the baby, they want to be the only child and have a sister.
Playing a game where you can experiment with opposing roles like being the victim or the perpetrator, the weak one or the strong one helps you to know who to be and who not to be so that you can keep the best aspects of both roles alive in yourself. This skill helps older kids make peace with new siblings, or teenagers be themselves in the midst of peer pressure and helps employees stand up to their superiors when their values are offended.
For you it will help to reconcile that feeling of wanting to eat your children and wanting to run away and hide from them at once. It will help you find new avenues for protecting them and letting them take risks at the same time. All thanks to a simple game of pigs and wolf.
3. Hide and seek – Believing in the good
Peek-a-boo is the simplest form of hide and seek and can be played with infants from as early as 6 months. Later as kid’s turn 9 and 10 they start adding intricate rules to complicate the game. Yet, the principle stays the same: if I get myself into a dark lonely place, someone will look for me and find me.
If you play hide and seek with your kids, you build the trust in them that they will be found even if they got themselves into a lost state. This is also true of reading stories at bed time: the princess that goes to sleep for 100 years, or chokes and ends up in a glass casket and is woken by a prince. The warrior that goes into the dark forest to sleigh the giant or the dragon and comes out victorious. All these stories build your child’s belief that he will wake up on the other side of the dark night. Later in life she will still hold on that core belief that there is light at the other end of darkness.
Now remember this when next you feel lost in a dark place and go easy on yourself. Be kind to the kid in you that just wants to be found and take heart: Daddy’s coming.
Active dramatic games and stories are essential for helping both you and your child:
- Deal with uncertainty and twilight
- Discover who they want to be and who they do not want to be
- Retain a sense of hope and confidence in life.
Look out for the next article on this subject dealing with the things that interfere with our playing.
If you want to take part in our next Family Fun Workshop, simply email me at email@example.com.
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