By Carrie Kerr
Sometimes it can be hard to think about sitting down to PLAY with your children. We have so many responsibilities as parents already. We need to feed them, dress them, take them to lessons or school, read to them, make sure they get fresh air, and clean up after them. In addition, we need to take care of our own responsibilities in a day. This may be work or homeschool, volunteer positions, grocery shopping, laundry, meal preparation, or paying the dreaded bills. It can be overwhelming to think of sitting down to participate in "play" on top of such overwhelming responsibilities. As a compromise we can incorporate play into our daily household work. After all, children love to do purposeful work and they love to be with mom or dad. Why not do purposeful work together with a playful attitude?
These are playful activities that require using one's imagination for spending quality time with your children while you accomplish your domestic work.
Mealtime: Pretend you're at a restaurant. Ask for the drink order and tell them what is the "special" of the day. They can pay with the meal with pretend tickets or money they make while you are preparing the food. OR - Be chefs in a restaurant. Give the children the jobs of washing all of the produce.
Kitchen Cleanup: Hire a dishwasher. Allow the children to shine the sink. They love this! Tell them that the restaurant owner loves to see his reflection in the sink.
Getting hair combed/everyday grooming: Make an appointment on a piece of paper and hand it to your child. When it is time for his cooperation, call his name & have him come to the "beauty parlor." Introduce yourself as a different character (not mom or dad). Make beauty parlor small talk with your child. They love to tell their life story to a willing listener.
Putting on shoes/getting dressed: Pretend you are shopping for clothes. Get them all dressed and say "Oh, that is just perfect for you! I'm going to give you a discount special on that. May I take your picture in this marvelous outfit?"
Take a real picture or just pretend. When you put on their shoes, ask how they fit. Do they like them? Would they like to buy them?
Cleaning up the house: Create a "work order." Write down the tasks on an index card or piece of paper with boxes next to each task to check off. If the child is too young to read, draw pictures. (I'm a terrible artist, but if I explain what the picture is they remember.) Write a word next to the picture so they make picture/word associations. Draw 2 lines at the bottom--one for them to sign when all is complete and one for you to sign as the "supervisor."
Books: To get books back on the bookshelf--send an overdue notice from the "library." Or...pretend you are returning books to the library and your child is the librarian. It's the librarian's job to put the books back on the shelf.
Spills/big messes: Announce in a megaphone voice "clean up in aisle one!" Then hand the child the necessary child-sized tools for helping to clean up the mess (they actually like being able to do this for themselves, especially if you have a happy attitude about it).
Laundry: Pretend you are working at a laundromat or a hotel. Get everything just right for the next guests.
Bills: Play office or bank. Ask your child to read you the number on the bill as you write the check (or type in the number if you pay bills online.) Circle the number for them that they will be reading. This is a great way to pay bills and teach your child her numbers at the same time. Each time you're ready for the next bill declare "NEXT!" If you are using snail mail, your child will love to play post office with you, placing all the stamps in the correct places and sealing them shut. Just be sure your child doesn't think that stamps are play stickers--I know from experience it gets pretty expensive that way!
You can also snatch some deposit / withdrawal slips from the bank next time you go in & give them to your child to write with while you pay bills. If you have old checks from an old checking account, void them out and give them to your child to play with. What fun!
Carrie Kerr is a mother to 3 children: Natalie ('98), Kate ('00), and Julius ('04). She is a co-founder and co-leader of API of Peoria, Il which has been active since December of '99. Carrie is married to her high school sweetheart, Matt. They homeschool their children in rural Washington, Illinois with the intention of just getting through one day at a time!