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By Carol Surya, author, psychologist, game developer and workshop facilitator. Her practical parenting book, ParentMagic – Raising Kids stems from  experience gained over the last 20 years working with children and their parents worldwide. You will find her company, Raising Kids Positively on Jozikids and Kznkids

Psychologists tell us that when parents take the time out to play and become kids themselves, children get the message that they’re important, while also being flooded with the right kind of attention.

Playing with your kids must be fun for you too. They know exactly when you’re enjoying yourself or not. It doesn’t have to be a board game – find things that you both enjoy – throwing balls, a “tea-party” or a hide-and-seek adventure in your backyard, walking around the neighbourhood or making sand castles, reading and making up stories. Whatever you do, make sure you get thoroughly involved and that you’re not just going through the motions.

My 9 tips:

  1. change into casual play clothes – make a conscious transition from work to play
  2. set a timer and tell them how much playtime there is – 30 minutes can be enough if it’s regular and totally uninterrupted
  3. give them 100% of your attention—no distractions, don’t answer phone calls, send texts or check messages, don’t play while preparing dinner
  4. make them the boss – follow their lead without directing them (even if this means learning to play their favourite computer game)
  5. relax and have fun – you don’t have to “make something happen”, just be present and engaging, encouraging, hugging, laughing and being silly with them
  6. join them completely – go down to their eye-level, take off your shoes, copy their movements, be a kid
  7. extend your comfort zone – lots of us find it hard to play games again. Be willing to learn from them, try something new
  8. give time warnings well before it’s over – some kids may need three warnings (e.g. 10 more minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes)
  9. stick to the time limits – even if you don’t want to stop, it’s better to do what you’ve said, and it’s easier to keep it up over time

Remember almost anything can spark their imagination, even everyday objects. Pots and pans become drum sets, a bowl with water becomes the sea for their action figures. With their keen imaginations and ability to pretend, they get to feel like a master creator, transforming ordinary things into magical characters. So why not schedule regular “play time” in your diary, the same way as you’d book a meeting or coffee date with a friend. You may be surprised how de-stressing it is, and much you love it!

Click here to find out more about the work that Carol Surya does.

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids.