You can say you love a kid a thousand times, but they’ll never believe it until you play with them! I’ve often said, “Play is the work of children.” What does this mean? For grown-ups, play is what we do when we take a break from work. Work, sadly, is our default mode. We get up and go to work. But once in a while, we take a break from work to play. Whether it is a short break at work, from work, or to get away from work on vacation. Play is an escape for us from a normal life of working. For our children, life is quite the opposite! Their default mode is play! They work too, but only when they have to, and it then requires that they take a break from play in order work! And can’t wait to get back to playing again! (Too bad we can’t be more like them!)
The dad who connects best with his kids is the one who learns how to connect with his children by making playing with his kids more his default mode, not a mode he has to switch to. When he is playful all the time – his kids feel loved, because they feel he is connecting with them on their level. This doesn’t mean he has to play all the time – he is their provider, he must work. But he can be playful whenever they are around and not be irritated by their playful spirit understanding that it is their natural way, and even join into it in little ways that show he understands and can enter their world easily and naturally while still being comfortable in his own. He can find little playful ways to join them, even if only for moments at a time.
The dad who is not too proud to get on the ground, laugh loudly or look rather silly, is a dad whose kids are going to feel loved and special. You never know what your kids have gone through during the day, and the dad who can make them laugh can turn everything around.
The Bible says,
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
What kind of dad do you want to be? One who dries up the spirit of your kids? Or one who is the medicine that cheers them up after perhaps a rough day? A playful dad is a dad who will brighten up their every day! Here is something to keep in mind when you play with your kids:
What makes for Positive P.L.A.Y.?
P = Purposeful Play – your goal is to connect with your kids and deepen your relationship with them while you play. Make sure you accomplish this while you play. Words of affirmation and affection during your play will make your play time purposeful.
L = Laughter -Laugh a lot. Roll around. Be silly. It doesn’t have to make sense. If you kid enjoys be tickled, work it in! Make your play time fun and memorable. Have code words for communicating when your tickling or wrestling is too much, but horse play and goofing off is one of kids’ greatest love languages. Love is also spelled “TIME” – and laughter filled time is the best time spent.
A = Active playing not passive playing. Sitting with your child while they play doesn’t count! You need to be engaged. Grab the toys and play along. They can tell if you are engaged or faking it. Role play, do voices, act things out, tell stories and get in to it. Embarrass them if you must, but you are your child’s favorite playmate. And you are earning the right to be the one they go to later when they need help and counsel. Invest in that relationship now by being engaged in what is important to them now, as simply or silly as it may appear to you now.
Y = Yield your agenda. You may have had plans or ideas for this time together, but let your child be in charge. If they keep changing their mind, it’s O.K. Usually you are in charge and giving the instructions. This is their time. They may even test you when you say that you want to play with them and let them take the lead. Show some humility and willingness to follow. They will love it.
If you will Be Playful – you will make everyday count with your children!