I love to read–in fact, it’s probably my favorite hobby, my favorite act of self-care, and probably my favorite way to learn, too. Some months ago, I saw a recommendation from a fellow home school mama for the book Playful Parenting, by Lawrence Cohen. I’ve read a handful of parenting books (Nighttime Parenting; Simplicity Parenting) and even some that don’t have the word “parenting” in the title (Bringing Up Boys). When I do read books like this, I do so as a discipline–as a way to equip myself with better tools for raising my children. At some point in these books, I have to push myself to continue, but I’m always glad that I did.
The book’s author recommends hands-on physical activity with our children, such as wrestling. I don’t enjoy wrestling, per se, but I have figured out a way to do this with my two boys that is fun for all. They work together to try and pull me off my bed, and I go all out telling them how they’ll never conquer me! They cannot measure my great strength! And then when they push and tug me off the bed, I act baffled that they could accomplish this feat. Cohen encourages parents to “follow the giggles,” and our bed-wrestling produces a barrel of laughs. He also writes in Playful Parenting that sometimes it takes the village idiot to raise a child–parents should be willing to look silly and goofy in order to connect with their children through play. And children need to work out their feelings and stress through play, he claims.
Cohen also suggests a physical play time he calls the sock game. When I read books like Playful Parenting, I like to try and implement ideas right away, testing them to determine if and how those suggestions might work for us. The sock game has worked tremendously well. Here’s how it goes…Each person (this game ONLY works for 2 people at a time) puts on a pair of socks. They then find an open space on a floor and try to pull one another’s socks off. The first person to get both of the other’s socks removed wins the game. I did try this once with my 2 boys and myself all playing this together–it got entirely too wild. I really recommend that you do this one-on-one.
I even ask my boys if they want to win or if they want me to try my hardest; sometimes kids need to feel they can best their parents in a competition since they are so often “losing” to us parents as we set and enforce rules and limits. Little brother usually tells me he wants to win; my older son often tells me to try my hardest but that he wants to win in the end. Although they are growing to the point that I often don’t have to hold back in order for them to win…
The giggles flow freely in this game, too. They’ve developed their own moves, one of which they call the “spin cycle.” Before we cleaned out their closet earlier this summer, I played the sock game with each of them and then promised another game for each one when we finished our cleaning job. It was an effective way to sweeten the deal.
My boys don’t actually play this game with each other, although I have not told them they shouldn’t. They just seem to want to play it with me. When we’ve finished, we are all a little out of breath–from the exertion and from the laughter–and definitely more connected with one another.
Here’s to a summer–and a childhood–of fun, active, connecting play.