Mum Life, Musings

How much do you play with your toddler?

After one of those mornings where all I seemed to hear was ‘Will you play with me mummy?’ I have a serious case of mum guilt. It’s a heartbreaking sentence to hear and always makes me feel terrible. I don’t stop what I’m doing and play very often to be honest. I try to excuse it by thinking about generations before ours that didn’t really play with their kids. I think about all the other cultures, most notably perhaps the French who don’t get down on their hands and knees and play with their children and I try to make myself feel better. I also make myself read articles that claim too much playing with our children will make them unable to develop independence and confidence in themselves. In short, I am trying to find excuse not to play and feel ok about it, because I absolutely hate it. There, I said it. I hate playing. How much do you play with your toddler? Do you enjoy it? Am I the only one counting down the seconds until I can escape to go and perform some mundane housework related task which gets me out of playing?

I follow some incredible bloggers that seem to relish every second of playing games and setting up messy play and I envy them, I really do. I think they seem like amazing parents and I feel pretty crappy in comparison. The Dad Network’s Al and Jen in particular spring to mind. From what I can gather, Al is a stay at home dad and he seems to be nailing it. They are always doing messy play and setting up games and toys and I kind of feel like I should be sending my kid there to be parented.

How much should I play with my toddler?

I didn’t mind the playing so much when she was a baby, you just dangle a toy in their face or pull faces and it’s all smiles but now, at almost 3, it is much more elaborate.

I am supposed to take on the voice of all 85 of her stuffed animals. I have to use a different voice for each one. I have to have full, in depth conversations, sometimes from as early as 5am about dragons and dinosaurs. I have to do the same thing over and over again, because that is just something that toddlers do and it apparently helps them learn. However on the 5th time of pretending to be Rex the dog talking about how he lost his mummy to a dangerous dragon in the forest, I’m just losing the will to live and I can feel myself getting a little bit snappy.

However, whenever I am doing anything like getting dressed or doing my make up she comes in with random food items from her play kitchen and I do pretend to eat them, does that count as playing? What about when she brings over her baby doll and I pretend to give her a bottle with one hand while I’m stirring dinner or brushing my teeth with my other hand… does that count? If it does then I probably play quite a lot but if not then I don’t really play at all. Pretend play very rarely gets 100% of my attention. I did a post on our daily routine recently that got me thinking about how much playing I do, or don’t do and now I feel a bit stressed about it. I love spending time together painting our nails, doing our hair, having a bath with a lush bath bomb, going on walks, reading colouring… stuff like that. Nice calm stuff. But pretend play? It’s not for me.

Maybe it’s my own fault and I should have given her a sibling much sooner. Or maybe I need to arrange more playdates, but I’m not quite sure how to go about that just yet…

That is one of the reasons I send her to nursery to be honest, I don’t need to because I don’t work but I send her anyway so she can interact with other children and get her play fix and do all the messy crafts I’m absolutely crap at. She goes three mornings a week and stays for lunch before I pick her up and she absolutely loves it. But is that enough?

Nursery three mornings a week, swimming at least once a week, ballet once a week, the park, soft-play… we do quite a lot when I write it down like that. But I still feel guilty when we do end up in the house for a couple of hours and she says she’s bored or she wants me to play. Should I be encouraging her to play independently when we are at home? Or should I be on the floor setting up a tea party with her Peppa Pig figures?

The days seem quite long at the moment because she seems to want to be doing something constantly, like I’ve said before, she has no chill. There are rarely naps now either and I’m running out of things to keep her entertained and happy. Three year olds are challenging in so many ways but amazing in so many others so I feel all the mum guilt that I’m not releasing my inner child and building a lego castle. I think I would just much rather we went out for a walk or went to soft play.

But then, is parenting about playing lego because that is what she wants rather than going for a walk because that’s what I prefer? When I sit down to have a cuppa and she comes over with a toy and wants me to have a pretend chat with them, I would say about 7/10 I go along with it but my heart isn’t in it. the other 3/10 I will say ‘just give mummy a minute to drink my coffee’ and she keeps asking and asking and pestering until I give in and do the voices but again, reluctantly.

But I suppose if I think about everything I have actually done in one day it adds up to quite a busy day, for me at least. I have kept her safe, fed, warm. Washed, dressed, undressed, bathed and I read her a bedtime story. She wakes up quite a lot so I go in to her about three times a night to tuck her back in and get her back off to sleep. At the weekends, we regularly play a big family game of hide and seek around the house or pretend play fighting where we roll around on the floor which leaves her squealing with giggles. We snuggle up and watch movies together, she’s been to the cinema quite a few times and at least once a week we go out for coffee and a cake. We go on big walks where we hunt for acorns and pine cones and wear our wellies, every Sunday she helps my husband cook the Sunday lunch and she loves that.

Shropshire Rocks

Also, we are definitely a family that uses screen time, I won’t pretend we don’t. The TV tends to be on pretty much constantly in the background and perhaps every other day she has a play on the iPad for an hour or so. I did have to stop her watching YouTube on my phone though, which we used to do every morning when she came into my bedroom first thing, because she got a bit weird about it and was demanding to watch ‘eggs’ (the lady opening kinder eggs) constantly and having big tantrums when I said no so I just stopped it cold turkey. She still asks every few days, but doesn’t strop about it anymore when I refuse.

This is a really ramble post, I know. Sorry about that. I just have all this stuff swirling around in my brain that I need to get out. I’m hoping I don’t get any hate for this too. I keep having horrible sweaty moments where I imagine loads of people writing horrible things about that awful blogger who doesn’t play with her poor child.

There are so many things that we do as parents. Keep them fed, keep them clean, give them a roof over their heads, make sure the house they live in isn’t a pigsty, make sure their clothes fit and they brush their teeth. Make sure they get their 5 (or is it 7 now?!) a day and drink plenty of water. Give them screen time to help them learn but not too much or it is bad for them. Make sure they get plenty of fresh air but keep them out of the heat/cold because it’s bad for them. We’re supposed to put ourselves somewhere on that list too, because a drained mama is a rubbish mama. Where does playing fall? Is it important in the grand scheme of things that I sit down and pretend to be Peppa Pig again today?

Because I really don’t want to.

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