29 February 2012

What a Difference a Play Makes

It's hard to believe how much has changed in just one week.
Remember my post on Play? I was about to have a go at focusing on child-led play. Spending concentrated time with each child, simply playing - led by them.

We started out a bit rough. It was a crazy week. Busy busy busy. The best I could manage was letting Scrag help me stir the sauce for Macaroni Cheese.

I was struggling in myself with my old foe, the Black Dog, and Play was simply not happening.
Until Friday.
Finally a break in the schedule - Scrag and me had a day at home together with nothing planned in.

That day was the turning point.
We played with Buzz Lightyear and Batman (they had a flying race; Batman won because he's a superhero). We took photos together; I even let Scrag push the button.
We went to the park. Instead of sitting on the park bench "keeping an eye on him", I followed him round, oohing and ahhhing at his cleverness. He blossomed before my eyes, strutting his stuff on the balance rope and climbing wall; preening under my admiring gaze. All my attention focused just on him.

Later he asked to play Mouse Trap. Somehow we figured out how to put it together and got it working. Yippeee! Squeals of delight and bouncing up and down every time the mouse was successfully trapped.

By the end of that day I felt so close to my little son. I want to spend every Friday like that, just me and him; hanging out and making the most of playing together before he heads to school (I'm changing his kindy hours so we can).

Already I was seeing a difference in the way I related to my kids.
By focusing deliberately on enjoying them, I found my fuse lengthening, my patience increasing.

Not without hiccups of course - did you read my theme dinner debacle? that was my attempt to engage with Miss Fab. Thwarted, but still.

On Sunday I made the tyre swing, praised the younger kids for their excellent jumping skills and admired their cleverness. It was warm fuzzies all round.

Then Scrag shouted, "Can we play hide and seek?"
Now usually at this point I would groan inwardly, I must admit.
But this time, no such reaction.
Let's play! I was all enthusiasm.

The sound of the fun we were having drew Dash from out of the house.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Playing hide and seek, " Miss Fab replied.
 "Is mum playing???" Dash asked incredulously.
"Yep!!!" we all chorused.
"OOOH!!! Can I play???" Dash cried.

And that's how I came to spend the best Sunday afternoon with my kids ever.
Playing hide and seek in the garden.
Who would have thought play could make such a difference?

Our whole family is calmer. there is more laughter, less fighting.
Everything becomes a game, a race. Instead of growling Scrag to hurry up, he knows to shout, "Ready, set, GO!" and we race to get ready, clean our teeth, get out the door.

Homework is getting done, beds are getting made. Don't ask me how - it's magic.
OK, it could actually be Mr G's awesome "chores and pocket money chart" (more on that another time).

Mr G has jumped on the play bandwagon too, picking up on what's happening. Yesterday as I cooked dinner, I heard the sounds of hide'n'seek again in the back garden.
He'll be reading my course book so we can stay on the same page, so-to-speak.

The Incredible Years parenting course is the best thing I've ever done for my family.

I was lost and scrambling as a parent, scrabbling together bits and pieces of advice from here, there and everywhere. but this course is giving me a cohesive practical framework for building close relationships with my kids; its full of practical advice too.

Already I've minimised dinnertime agro by taking our facilitator's advice and planning meals two weeks in advance. Each person gets to pick a meal each week. they can even help with the cooking if they want to. I now have a meal plan on my fridge for the next two weeks; everybody has to eat without a fuss the meals that other people have chosen. Hard to believe that not only do i know what I'm having for dinner tonight already, but next week too!

Can you tell I am enthusiastic? When I find something that works I just have to rave about it. And this works.

There are Incredible Years parenting courses being run all over New Zealand. They are Government funded, so are completely free to attend and even offer free childcare! You can find a course near you here.

The Incredible Years is not just in New Zealand, it's all over the world. Find out more on their website.

In the meantime, if in doubt, just play.


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Anna @ green tea n toast said...

That's great to hear it actually worked! Amazing that some dedicated child time can have such an effect. Keep us posted with more play tales.

Cat said...

loud celebratory yells from Canada
can you hear them????
so digging this S
so digging this!!!!

love and light

meg said...

Inspiring Simone. Lovely. I played cards with my boys this afternoon after school. Have put a closed sign on the computer from 230-730pm.

remaliah said...

Wow, that's amazing! I'm taking tips from you and learning to sit and play with our girls, even though they're still very young. I can tell they LOVE it when I'm there on the floor with them. That is great that the government is funding parenting courses like this one. One thing I'm really looking forward to in being back in NZ is being able to have easier access to these :) So happy for your week!! (P.S. I need to get on to that 2 week meal planning thing! Ugh...one of my greatest failures is making meals and being organised!)

Cheryl said...

Incredible! Thanks so much for sharing!

Neetz said...

Man...so true about "play" making the household a lot calmer etc.

When I say "Stuff it" to the housework or the tidy ups and say "yeah" when the kids are asking me to push them on the swing...or take them for a pony ride...or dig in the sand with them.... guaranteed the whole household is smoother, nicer, calmer, happier!!! Yeah it might be messy as heck...but its a lot more fun to be in!! :) Sometimes we need to take the kids invites to play, and just go for it!! Well done you xxxx

The Monko said...

great post. Play is a great way to reconnect with kids.

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