When our kids were toddlers my husband vowed he was going to write a book, "How to Play with Your Kids Without Getting off the Couch." It would be filled with games like Bus Driver: "Sit on the couch and say, 'Everybody on the bus!'" And Shoe Store: "Sit on the couch and say, 'I'd like to try on some shoes!'"
And yet he, at least, goofed around with our boys. Me? Like Rebecca Onion, author of this great Slate piece called "Playtime Is Over!", I dreaded everything from playing catch to pretending to be a dog (or both at the same time. Arooooooo!).
Then I got in touch with David Lancy, author of The Anthropology of Childhood. Prof. Lancy has studied childhood on four continents, in areas rich and poor; rural, urban and suburban. It was a great relief when he said that not only is playing with kids not crucial for their development or happiness, other cultures find the idea so bizarre that to them, adults getting down on the ground to play with the kids was as weird as a parent wearing a diaper, or drinking from a baby bottle.
And yet in America today, a recent study of almost 4000 parents, rich and poor, found that if a child says, "Draw with me!" most respondents felt they should stop whatever they were doing and draw with the kid.
If how we got so invested in the idea we MUST play with kids interests you, check out the Slate piece. Onion found that many parents report feelings of "failure and inadequacy" when they don't want to play, or don't think they are fun or stimulating enough. She also found that while kids get some benefit from playing with the 'rents, it's not so much that you should beat yourself up if you're not doing it. (For the record, my mom claimed she never played with me.) Onion also heard from a pre-k teacher that kids whose parents have been ultra-involved in their playtime can end up being a little LESS creative and fluid, because their play style has been so directed by an adult.
Long story short: It seems as if there's nothing wrong with playing, or not playing, with your kids. So how are you handling play time over by you? - L