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In last month's blog post, I shared common reasons playing with our kids can be hard for many parents. Reasons like not having enough time, being too exhausted and in some cases, simply not enjoying little kids’ games were discussed. Missed that last blog post? Check it out here.
But, there’s another barrier I didn’t touch upon last month, which is: “Is my kid even having fun playing with me?”
So many parents – myself included at times – don’t know how to properly gauge whether their child is authentically having a good time.
Questions like, "Are they having fun playing with me?", "Do they even want to be playing this game right now?", "Are they bored?", are just a few of the questions that can arise when we are doubting our ability to engage our child.
All of these worries are super common and normal for parents to have. I especially find this to be common among parents who are single parents and/or divorced. Today, I’m here to offer you some signs to look out for that will let you know your child is having fun playing with you. Tips on how to play with your child in a way that’s enjoyable for both of you will also be provided.
Signs that your child is having fun with you
First, I want to acknowledge the fact that while I'm trained to look out for these signs, I'm in no way an expert on your child and your relationship dynamic. I firmly believe that when parents are attuned to their child, they know them best and will instinctually know when their child is authentically having fun. So, do pay attention to your instinct. On the flip side, for some parents, it can be hard to pay attention to that instinct because they may have been taught to not trust it. Whether you are attuned or not, here are some signs to look out for.
1) Your Child is laughing in an amazing, almost contagious way
Kids who are having a good time will often let out a deep belly laugh. You know the one – that silly, amazing laugh that sounds like pure joy. It’s that laugh that they’ve had since they were babies.
Researchers say that babies’ laughter is so infectious because it’s authentic. And our ability to recognize genuine laughter (vs. a “fake laugh”) is universal across nations and cultures.
So that’s what you’re looking for – that genuine belly laugh that lets you know that your child is having a great time.
You may be wondering, can kids “fake laugh”? Yes, they can. Sometimes this laugh sounds like a nervous giggle or an exaggerated loud laugh.
In my practice, I've noticed that a fake laugh most commonly comes up when a parent is tickling a child and/or playing a competitive game. What starts out as genuine play and laughter can easily turn into a nervous laugh when the child is starting to feel uncomfortable and wants to stop playing but doesn't know how.
Being mindful of when your child's authentic belly laugh changes to a nervous giggle or almost yelling laugh can help you gauge when you may want to take a break and change to something else.
2) They are focused and not disconnecting
Another sign that your child is having a truly good time playing with you is that they’re focused on the play and are not trying to distract you with their “antics.”
Often in my play practice, I notice parents who are excited to play a new game/activity with their child only to be met with a child who either gets up and tries to play with something else or tries to annoy the parent by doing something silly.
This can look like poking the parent, using language that the parent doesn't approve of, moving away from the parent. etc.
I refer to such behavior as a disconnection. Such moments of disconnection can often be accompanied by a lot of giggling.
Typically, when this happens, it is usually the child's way of letting us know that they are not enjoying themselves and want to move on to something else.
If your child is not doing this, then great! They are more than likely enjoying play time with you. If they are disconnecting, then move on to something else.
3) They directly tell you they’re having fun and don't want to stop
Don’t underestimate the power of words. Kids will often tell you if they’re having a good time as well as when they’re bored. If your child tells you that they don’t want to play with something because it’s boring, believe them!
If they also tell you how much fun they are having, believe them too! Sometimes parents can doubt how much fun a child is having because the type of activity/play they are doing doesn't fit into the parents' definition of fun.
Kids don’t tend to lie about these things and by honoring their likes and dislikes it can make them feel more comfortable to return again for some more.
Why isn’t my child having fun playing with me?
Now, let’s talk about the next burning question, which is: Why doesn’t it seem like my child is having fun? For some parents this can feel devastating but try not to take it personally. Instead, ty to understand that it may be more about what and how you’re playing.
Some of the most common reasons children don’t have fun when playing are:
While there are certainly other reasons your child may not enjoy playtime with you - like sound and touch sensitives, the important thing is to pay attention to your child's verbal and non-verbal signals. Doing so will help you identify patterns during their play and will ultimately allow you to address barriers that are coming up.
The last thing I will leave you with is information about a Summer Camp I am hosting for parents this Summer.
One of the things I love about my practice is being able to help parents and children learn how to play together in a loving and joyful way. Witnessing their moments of connection and hearing their genuine laughter brings a true sense of fulfillment to me.
Due to my time limitations, unfortunately, I'm unable to help as many families as I would like to, so I've put together a "camp" for Parents in the hopes of helping more families.
This two-hour, four day, in-person workshop is aimed at helping parents learn how to play with their child and connect with other parents in the same boat.
Essentially, the Summer Camp for Parents will focus on helping parents of 3-8 year old's:
I'm limiting this camp to four individuals so that I can provide tailored suggestions and have one on one time with each person as we play with various toys/tools.
Toys, light refreshments and snacks will also be provided.
Get in touch with me for more information and to sign up!
Thank you as always for taking time to read this!
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