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Play With Your Kids
By Mac Bledsoe
During summertime, family life
becomes more chaotic and less routine. However, summer presents a
wonderful new opportunity for parents who choose to grasp it! As I travel
the nation putting on parenting events there is one very common question
that keeps being asked… "How do you talk to kids, especially to
Well, let me tell you, I do not believe that there is a simple answer to
that question because there are just about as many answers as there are
kids! There is one thing that I do know to be the truth about being able
to carry on a conversation with a young person; it is almost impossible to
talk with a child with whom you do not already have a relationship! It is
virtually impossible to discuss important issues with a child who views
you as a stranger. Summer gives us an opportunity to build relationships
with our kids.
Along those lines, I am convinced that the best way to build a
relationship with a child is through the medium of play. A wonderful side
effect of playing with kids is that playing is fun for adults too… it is
an excuse to extend childhood! Like my grandfather used to say, "You can
only be young once but you can make immaturity last a lifetime!"
Play does not have to be complicated nor organized. Look for opportunities
to play with your kids daily. On a hot day, pick up some water balloons on
the way home from work and start a water balloon fight. Get squirt guns to
cool a hot summer evening. Start the barbeque and create your own gourmet
burgers. While the barbeque is warming up and the burgers are cooking,
start a neighborhood game of baseball in the street using a homemade ball
made with a wadded up wet sock (that way no windows get broken.)
Stop by the local Good Will or used sporting goods shop and pick up an old
set of used golf clubs. Pick up some Whiffle Balls and then when you get
home set up a golf course around your yard or around the neighborhood by
stapling or taping paper plates to various trees, light poles, fence
posts, corners of buildings, and other usable landmarks. Write the numbers
one through nine on the paper plates. You now have a new golf course. To
play you start at plate #9 and hit your ball toward the landmark labeled
#1. To score on a hole your ball must be hit to within a club length of
the object. Count your "strokes" just like in golf. The person with the
lowest total strokes after 9 holes is the winner. This game can be a blast
when played in a forest, in a yard or it six or seven back yards that
join. Enlist the neighbors to play with you. Set "tee times" and develop
handicaps. The possibilities are endless. Post scores, make up impromptu
leader boards and develop your course ground rules. Follow the lead of the
Create a neighborhood newspaper on your computer. Put kids in charge of
publishing it and have them interview neighbors about upcoming events in
their respective families.
Get out the video camera and make a music video. Pick a song to use as the
theme and then shoot footage to make a statement that matches what the
song says. Let your hair down and get into it with your kids. Let them
shoot you in everyday life and put music to what they have shot. You might
really learn something about the way that the kids see you and your family
Get the ingredients for making ice cream sundaes and break them out as an
evening family activity. Set the ingredients up in the garage or on the
porch and let your kids invite a bunch of their friends over to join in.
Sit around in lawn chairs and enjoy the company as you eat the treats.
Set up a Badminton court in the back yard and leave it set up throughout
the summer. In free moments challenge your kids to a game. Create new
games and set up courts and fields. Take some chalk and create a shuffle
board game on the sidewalk using sticks as your implements and slide
plastic coffee can lids as your pucks.
Set up a Horseshoe game in the back yard. Get a dartboard and set it up on
the back porch or in the kitchen. Start building a big puzzle and leave it
set up in the living room; work on it during spare time. Play Cribbage,
Gin Rummy, Chess or Checkers. Play tennis, swim, hike, ride bikes, take a
walk in a park, go fishing, get creative and find ways to play with your
What will happen when you establish a spirit of play with your kids is
that you will find that it will become easier and easier to talk with
them. When people are in the act of playing it is almost impossible to be
silent. The natural talk that surrounds play will break the ice. Once the
talk becomes natural it becomes much easier to talk about important
topics. When play becomes a regular part of life in your family then, when
feel you have something that you really need to talk to your kids about it
will not seem so odd or forced. You will have established a communication
channel via the interaction of playing with your kids! In the meantime you
will have had a delightful time laughing and playing with someone you
love… your kids!
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