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How to play with your kids (and teach them a few things along the way)

Categories: Balancing Act, Kid Matters

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By Nadine from Martinis for Milk

“Play Batman with me Mommy,” my almost-five-year-old son,Nate , calls to me as I’m caught checking my Blackberry again. I look up at him, wanting to make him happy, but completely clueless. “OK, but you’ll have to tell me HOW we play Batman.”

I have a dirty secret. I don’t know how to play with my kids.

While my husband creates intricate games and stories in moments, I seem to be missing that gene. But he often works nights, leaving me home alone with two kids under five. Here’s how I get creative with quality time.

• WPT Training: I drop a pack of playing cards on the floor and get the kids to play a variation of 52 Pick-Up (one that involves identifying numbers, but also suits—so they’ll be ready for that Texas Hold ‘Em tourney in their future).

• Cents and Sensibility: I pour out the entire contents of their piggy bank (usually in search of change for bus fare to work), and then get the kids to put it all back in (enhancing fine motor skills and teaching them to clean up my messes).

• Grocery Grab: I drag them to the grocery store and force them into the cart. Then I let them take turns spotting things on my list and putting them into bags or the cart (sitting in the cart helps them to reach). Finally, I make a big hoopla at mealtime: “This is the apple that YOU picked Lucy!”

• Iron-Fisted Chef: “We’re going to bake us some cookies dammit! Yes, I know Mommy isn’t much of a baker, but just go with it so that I can feel like I’ve contributed to your childhood.”

• Guess the Show: After I let them destroy the kitchen for the sake of producing hockey-puck cookies, someone has to clean up. So I call upon my favorite babysitter—the TV. But sometimes the children still request my interaction, in which case I call out, “Whoever tells me what this next show is called fastest can have another hockey-puck cookie!”

All kidding aside (though I’m not making any of these up – I swear), I’ve learned a valuable lesson in my years of dealing with working mom guilt. Whatever you do with your kids, the key is to really see them for who they are while you’re doing it. Smile (and sometimes you have to fake it), look into their eyes and try to truly be present in their presence.

Even if it’s just for an hour some nights, making that time that’s just for them really helps their self-worth in the long run. Plus, you can always send that Tweet after they’re asleep.

Do you have any tips for how to get down and dirty with your kids?

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