By Sholain Govender-Bateman – Pretoria-based New Media journalism lecturer, former The Star and Pretoria News journalist & editor of magazines. She is mum to two gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry Bateman. Twitter @sholain
World Play Day is being celebrated this Thursday (28 May 2015) with local activities being organised by non-profit organisation Cotlands. Some may scoff at a day being dedicated to playing but in a world where our children are under constant pressure to excel academically, playtime is becoming more and more important.I spend a lot of time away from my girls, 7 and 4, due to work which includes two hours daily travel time so I really enjoy a bit of playtime with them and I’m not afraid to admit that I love being a kid with them!
We mostly play the ‘old-fashioned’ games because we don’t need any special equip for most of them and we can play the games anytime we want. Most of the rules are pretty basic which is important with little ones who can get frustrated if you keep telling them they’re doing things all wrong.
We’ve got some active games like blind man’s bluff (is that still pc…? Lol). I just fold a long-sleeved t-shirt and use that as a blindfold. I keep the game to a small area like the lounge or our main bedroom where they are less likely to bump into sharp corners or hard furniture.
Hide and seek – in and around our home which is obviously child-safe. It’s hilarious because both girls are prone to letting on to where they are hiding within a few minutes of the start of the seeking and my 4-year-old has a tendency to find a favourite hiding spot for the day, and repeatedly goes to that spot.
“King, king” or “Queen, queen” let’s the girls contort themselves into snakes, frogs and babies, as I tell them how many steps they can take towards me, with the one reaching me first being declared the winner. It’s one of my ‘lazy’ games where I can chill on the couch as they move across the lounge towards me.
I have to confess, I prefer the ‘lazy’ games after a long day/week at work and the girls don’t mind, as long as they have fun and get to move and laugh. Another ‘lazy’ game that they absolutely love is ‘Shark’, where I sit or lie on my bed and reach out my arms pretending to be a shark about to catch them as they run between the bed and the cupboard. Perfect for a rainy day and for getting them to use up pent-up energy.
Hoolahoops, skipping, soccer and rugby, or ‘wugby’ as my little one would say, are also some equipment-required favourites when they can find their ‘gear’ amongst their other prized possessions.
If we’re in the mood for more intellectually stimulating games, we set up the picnic blanket on the lawn and play “I spy” – the colour version for the time being but pretty soon we’ll upgrade to the letter version as my girls become more literate.
Then there are days when the weather is just right and we lie on our backs on the grass and do a bit of cloud-spotting. I am in awe of their vivid imaginations as they tell me about dragons and ships and giraffes that they see in the clouds.
Hopscotch, clapping games and even the cup song from Pitch Perfect have featured on our ‘play list’ and even though they may not be expert hoppers or none of us can remember all the words to the clapping song, the most important thing is that they have fun and develop loads of skills without even realising it.
The great thing about playing with them from a young age is that they will know how to play the games on their own as the need for adult play-time supervision decreases. Jungle-gyms, trampolines and bicycles, even just a wheelbarrow full on compost in my kid’s case, all require minimal parental supervision for their age groups.
I know that my two girls would love to play with me more, and for this World Play Day I’m going to set a weekly reminder on my mobile saying, “Playtime!” so that amidst my busy schedule, I take a little time to have some fun, for my girls and myself! I challenge you to do the same. Choose a time where you’re mostly likely to have a gap, even if it’s just 15 minutes, and just set that reminder. Make a list of games with your children and give them turns to close their eyes and randomly choose a game so that no sibling war breaks out. Next time they’re bored, send them to the list and let them choose their own game to play. Most importantly, remember to have fun!
And I’m sure you have firm family favourite games, so please share.
If you would like to support Cotlands activities on World Play Day email: firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to make a financial contribution alternatively sms PLAY to 38585 to donate R10.