When I force myself to play a 4 year old’s game that is beyond boring for me, there’s no fun, and no real connection. And I’m sure my kids feel the same when I get them to do some activity that’s my idea of fun but not theirs.
The trick is to find some middle ground. Something you both like or can both get into. Then it’s easy and it flows, you get to know each other a little bit better, and family memories are made.
So I say, don’t feel guilty about not playing make believe or hide and seek with your kids if you hate it. Just find something you do actually like and go from there.
Here are some ideas that work for us:
1. Drawing/colouring in together. For some reason we all like this. We get out paper and crayons for the whole family and just do our thing. There are no rules, just fun.
2. Reading time. I mean where we all read our own thing. Take a huge pile of books and magazines, including things like gardening and recipe books, and go and sit somewhere different (outside is always fun). Usually the variety and novelty of it will buy us at least half an hour reading our own books before we’re asked to read to small people.
3. Building a fort. Even as adults there’s something fun about taking all the blankets in the house and building a little hideaway! For me it’s more about getting to lie on pillows on the floor and read while the kids entertain themselves building around me for literally hours.
4. Cook together. Another firm favourite. Share the load at dinner time – one person wash the lettuce, another chops the cucumber… There’s something about it that everybody loves. Probably because the kids feel useful and grown up, and the grownups feel like the load is being shared. This might apply to all chores, but cooking is the one that we all love.
5. Family board/card games. Definitely not all games. You might have to try a few out to see which ones you all like. Playing ‘Frozen’ dominoes makes me want to hurt myself… same as ‘Ninja turtle’ top trumps. But Zingo and Uno we all quite enjoy, so those are on the list.
6. Movie night. Once in a while we’ll haul all the mattresses into the living room to make one big bed, watch a movie together and sleep there when it’s finished. The novelty and excitement is so infectious, even us grownups can’t help but feel a bit like a kid again!
7. Walking together. Always a hit. Everyone loves a little walk around the block. Usually with a short stop at the park. Lately my kids keep begging to go up the mountain, so we’re really pleased that they’re keen on one of our favourite hobbies.
8. Sharing hobbies and sports. Surfing, jogging, swimming, paddling, fishing and gardening come to mind. But I’ve learnt that it’s important to let my kids enjoy it in their own way, and not to turn it into a coaching session or to make it all about the results!
9. Time in nature. We all tend to go off and do our own thing within easy distance of each other, but walking and exploring together on the beach or a greenbelt is something we really love and couldn’t live without.
10. Car trips somewhere new. Discovering places we haven’t been to before, or showing the kids somewhere they’ve never been but that’s familiar to us… They love this kind of stuff and so do we.
We’re always looking for new ideas – do you have anything to add to this list?