Just to set the record straight, honestly, there're only so many minutes of cars, dragons or trains I can play before I'm ready for a nap. I'm not the type of mom that loves nothing more than to sit on the floor and play with her her kids. It just not me! Besides the boredom factor, I strongly believe kids should learn to play independently. I don't think kids need an adult around every second, in fact, I think it can be detrimental in some ways. I won't get into that now, suffice to say that my kids do play a lot on their own while I'm doing my thing in the background somewhere in the house. But there is something to be said for Lev Vygotsky and his "scaffolding play" idea.
Basically, he lays it out there like this (and I'm not an expert by any means! This is just my general understanding of his theory): Children play at different levels, starting with the most basic, concrete and rudimentary play that evolves into something more complex and abstract as the child ages. For example children pretend to eat pretend food. Pretty soon they can pretend to eat peices of lego or blocks instead of pretend food. Next they don't even need a prop to pretend to eat. They pretend to eat "thin air". He goes on to say that adults and older children can "scaffold" a child into the next level of play through modeling, boosting the child in to the next level with their help until he or she learns to do it on their own. I believe this to be true. Kids' play gets more detailed, more realistic and less prop-dependent when they have had adults sit down and play with them.
So what's a lego-and-Mr-Potato-Head dreading mom to do? I suppose I'd better play with them! While I highly doubt that my kids' play will be 'stunted' in any long-lasting or serious way, I HAVE found that by sitting down and playing with my kids for a half hour or so before I get serious about cooking supper helps them play more independently during the dreaded "hell's half-hour" before it's actually done. On top of that, my kids are at an age where dumping out the box of blocks onto the living room floor and walking away is the same as leaving a couple of terrorists a box of bombs in the middle of a busy airport! Carnage would follow.
SO! If you're still with me, here's what I'm trying to say. I play with my kids during a set amount of time practically every day, usually only thirty or so minutes.
Just to prove my little lecture, take a look at the gorgeous castle we built together! Silas has a set of wooden blocks in his quiet time play area and his creations have become much more intricate! I try and follow his lead - I mean, if he REALLY wants to build roads or cars out of blocks, of course I will, but to keep things interesting for ME, I add on to whatever we're doing.
And then, cause this is play after all (and because the blocks are made of foam!) it turns into a block fight. Please excuse the mess in the background! Usually the boys are so eager to get going with our time that I don't even get the chicken bucket and egg basket put away! Silas loves this time together cause that's all I do during said time. Just play with my boys. I've actually come to love it myself because not only does it boost up their play and model a little more complexity to them, it also allows me a bit of inattention right afterwards while I cook supper and it puts off all the play requests for the day. ("Mama, would you put on some music to dance with me?" "How about we save that for Play With Mom Time? Go and check our day, when is that?") Done.
As a bonus, when I know that this is it, this is all I'm obligated to do in the play department, I actually enjoy myself! If we had neighbours and passing traffic I can bet they would be laughing hysterically when we turn the "Bear Hunt" song on Friday afternoons! We're all in good spirits and breathless by the time we've gone through it for the third time!
Who would have thought that one little card could do so much for us?