It is common for child experts to advise parents to regularly play with their children–and for good reasons. Being playful engages and stimulates the feel-good hormones, serotonin and dopamine, and makes everyone have a better time.
But playing with children is easier said than done. Who has the time? You do–if you think in moments. Five minutes here and 10 minutes there. Walking games are a wonderful way to increase the fun factor and create some sweet moments for both parent and child. And a walking game is a great way to get a cranky kid, who doesn’t feel like walking, back into the car after an outing.
- choose a walking game that is short and novel
- select walking games that are based on your child’s skills
- pick a game that incorporates your child’s interests
- enjoy yourself
- get discouraged
- feel embarrassed
- forget to do your best in the moment
Using short games introduces novelty into a mundane moment. For example, while walking, engage your child with “red light, green light” or “stop and go” directions. Or walk as if you are both giants, taking huge steps and alternating these steps with baby steps. Ask your child about his favorite dinosaur and how it would walk. Pretend your arms are glued together and try walking, or try holding hands and skipping together.
If your child is good at jumping, move like kangaroos. If your child is a good dancer, ask her to move like a dancer. Is he able to hop on one foot? If so, ask him to show off this new accomplishment.
If your child is too cerebral to want to spend time jumping, ask her to guess how many steps it will take to get to your destination. Or play a walking version of “I spy” and search for things in the distance. Try challenging your child to find one thing he never noticed before, such as a specific detail on a building, a new sign or a budding flower in a planter.
This is a time for you to let go and be playful. If you’re a typical parent, you can definitely use a little play time.
This is your moment with your child and you only get a short time with them. For this moment and for this game, play together and be completely present. Let go of what you need to prepare for dinner and what needs to be cleaned around the house. It is only about you and child right now.
Don’t worry if you plan a fun game and your child is not in the mood. If the game ends after one minute, just try again on a different day or with a different game. Remember that children like to connect, no matter what they do.
If someone takes issue with the fact that you and your child are walking like giants, it is their problem and not yours. Keep in mind that you are more likely to be friends with people who smile at you as you galoomp by.
It is important to remember that life is a mix of both good and bad. The opposing notions of, “I’m the best parent, and I’m the worst parent,” are common feelings for all parents. Do your best in the moment, try to ignore the negative and accept it all.
There are many potential moments throughout the day for play. When you want to get things done quickly, have your kids act like Lightning McQueen. And when you want things to be slow, channel Eeyore. Find your play moments here and there. Making happy moments and building memories is essential for all families.