Play Matters, Dads: Why You Need to Play With Your Kids Whether You Want to or Not by Abraham Alarcon

Play Matters, Dads: Why You Need to Play With Your Kids Whether You Want to or Not

I am a vice principal in an elementary school and I spend a lot of time at school. Yet, a major challenge for me is being creative at home and playing with my sons. As a father of three boys, I miss the heck out of all the times my sons, Elijah and Matthew, asked me that magical question my youngest son, Jacob, now asks: "Dad, will you play with me?" Why? Because Elijah and Matthew are grown now and I miss those days that I know I cannot get back.

Today, whenever Jacob asks that question, I try, I really try, to listen and play with him. I have to pry my fingers from my laptop computer or put my cellphone down or stop from going to the gym just to play with him. I have to remember that I wanted my family. I chose to have this life and my child is simply doing what is most natural and pure: the desire to maintain and enrich his relationships via play. And what may be running through his head is, "Who better to play with than with my own dad?"

I must admit that I often fail to play for as long as Jacob wants and to do what he likes. For instance, we both like "Star Wars" and he has lots of different Star Wars action figures. Well, my favorite character is Han Solo, which he doesn’t have, but he loves the Storm Troopers and Boba Fett. Bad guys? Really? He has no X-Wing fighter or Millennium Falcon but he has the Slave I? OK. 

He also loves to build LEGOs and has lots of patience for opening the pages and following the images that instruct what pieces to put together and in what order. I have a hard time being patient with so many tiny pieces. One wrong placement and you have to undo what you built. It can get hairy! I must say that my wife does so much better than me with finishing the LEGOs. Another thing that makes LEGOs so hard for me is my eyes. At age 48, my eyes are pretty bad and after an hour of building LEGOs, my eyes get tired. (I sound annoying, huh?)

Jacob has many Hot Wheels toy cars and he slams them, crashes them and makes tons of noises as he plays. I used to love my Hot Wheels, but there are only so many crash scenes and noises I can make before I remember that I have to change the oil of our car or check my emails. I get distracted and bored and I feel bad that I cannot create fun scenarios to keep myself engaged and Jacob happy. 

Yet, instead of focusing on my flaws and distractions and from laying a thick guilt trip, I always remind myself of the things that I can do well and what Jacob might enjoy. So, I take a leap of faith and introduce him to songs, dance moves and playing games in our crowded NYC apartment living room. For example, we play with a balloon. He loves balloons!. He stands on one side of the living room and I stand on the opposite. The goal is to keep the balloon up in the air with any part of our body. I smack it with my hand and yell out to Jacob, “Hit it!” He climbs, jumps and throws himself all over just to hit the balloon. It’s physical and funny wrapped up into one. There are times when we take out a huge bean bag chair and place it in the middle of the floor and hit the balloon and dive onto the bean bag. Tons of fun!

Another thing Jacob and I do is play soccer with a tiny ball and listen to music. Matthew and I played for years when he was younger. Our older son, Elijah, was a teen back then and he joined in the play, too. My wife still reminds me how many picture frames we broke. Today, I play Brazilian Samba, Salsa, Spanish Rock and various tracks from the FIFA EA Sports playlist. Singing and soccer go hand in hand and you can hear Jacob yell, “Patea” (kick it) and me yelling, “Gooooooaaal” to celebrate. Again, it’s very physical and emotional play. 

Playing with your child is a choice. There is time for everything, especially play. Dads like me have no excuse whatsoever NOT to play with our children. Our children need it and so do we to keep the tight bonds of a loving and caring relationship. OK, so you may not like what your child is proposing to do. Play along for a while and tag team with your spouse or a sibling. Stick to what you know and introduce singing and dance. Try playing with a balloon, a small ball or simply making funny faces. You might surprise yourself that as a dad you had more fun than your child. 

What kind of games is your child proposing to play that you do not like? What kind of games do you play with your child?

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Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds
"Playing with your child is a choice. There is time for everything, especially play." You are so right, Abraham Alarcon ! This is a great post, thank you. I know many other people who would agree with you! Mike Prochaska Teacher Karen Kari Ewest Michael Kennedy Brian Mackenzie Keith Sereduck Rick St. Peter
Michael Kennedy
Amen Abraham. You are so right. You can't rewind that clock and once these opportunities are gone they're gone. Play comes in so many forms and you can always find times and ways to get interactive. Everyone benefits. I am constantly a work in progress, but this is a great reminder and a great post.

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