Make a “Play” List with Your Kids

by Sonya Feher on April 23, 2014

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My son is seven and a half, attending public school, and  just getting everything done in a day is a challenge. He is exhausted from being around kids all day and I have client emails to send and dishes that need washing. From the alarm in the morning until bedtime, we are negotiating transitions, trying to get things done, and we don’t always have the same wants or needs at the same time. It’s easy to lose connection with each other in the midst of that.

So, I was very interested to hear Brené Brown talking about play in The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection. She referenced Stuart Brown, a play researcher, and gave his simple definition of play.

  1. Time spent without purpose
  2. You lose sense of self and don’t feel inhibited or self-conscious
  3. You lose track of time

Play is a great place to connect with our kids (and ourselves), when it’s really play for both of us. It helps foster the attachment that we build with them as babies, and that can get strained when we’re spending so much time apart or needing to get things done when we’re together.

But there’s a catch. The activity has to feel like play for all the parties if the goal is to play together. Play for my son may include endless LEGO battles, but that feels like work to me. It meets none of the criteria of play. 1) The purpose is to hang out with my child. 2) I feel self-conscious because I don’t really know how or why to have battles. 3) I’m very aware of how much time I’ve spent doing it.

What do you do when play for one of you is miserable, or not fun, for another? Figure out what you both like to play. Brené  Brown sat down with her family and they made a list of what fit the definition of play was for each of them. Many activities, like Candyland, did not overlap. But the ones that did went into her Venn Diagram (yes, she made fun of herself for making a Venn Diagram of play, and yes, I totally loved the idea). The overlaps in their diagram helped Brown’s family determine what they’d spend time doing on the weekends, what kinds of vacations they took, or what they’d do together for fun.

The importance of playI loved the idea so much that we made up our own play lists and checked for overlap at our house. Both my son and I love to make up songs and rhymes, lie in the hammock and read a book together, jump at Jumpoline under the disco lights, play some board games (but not others), and many more. We also made a list for things that can feel like play for awhile, but that one or the other of us gets tired of  sooner, and we put those activities on our limited play list. We can do them together, with a time limit, so the other person isn’t having to work to stay interested.

The list has been really helpful. We’re playing UNO more often, have remembered how much we like to play in the water, and the list is a go-to resource when we’re needing extra connection because we’ve been busy or one of us is having a hard day. The conversations we have during or after play are more connective too.

For more ideas about how to integrate play into your parenting, I highly recommend Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. And for the research behind play, Stuart Brown’s book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul is a fascinating read.

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Responding Differently: School, Work and Parenting

by Amber Strocel on April 18, 2014

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Even before my first child was born nine years ago, I knew Attachment Parenting was something that fit my personality and values. My own parents practiced many Attachment Parenting principles, so it came very naturally to me. When my children were very young, I especially took the principle respond with sensitivity to heart. I wanted to be there for them when they needed me … and as babies their needs were very urgent. A newborn simply doesn’t understand the concept of waiting.

Now that my children are older, the way that I respond to their needs and requests has changed. More and more, I encourage them to try things by themselves while offering my support and encouragement. I also balance their needs against my own in different ways. While it would be unreasonable to expect a newborn to wait 15 minutes for a meal, it’s not so unreasonable to expect the same thing from a five-year-old or a nine-year-old. Today when I hear, “Mom, I’m hungry,” I might say something along the lines of, “We have fruit and cheese in the fridge,” or , “Dinner will be ready soon.”

Last month I shared the post Mother / Student here on APtly Said, in which I explained my decision to return to school this past January. With my children now both in elementary school full-time, I decided the time was ripe to do something for myself. I started taking some classes at a local university, working towards the goal of becoming a math and science teacher.

Studying (this was actually my history textbook)
Studying (this was actually my history textbook)
My return to school has also changed the way I respond to my children. Now that I’m balancing parenting with both paid employment and schoolwork, my time is stretched a little thinner. I’m spending more time working in the same room as my kids, while they play independently. I’m letting go of outside commitments, being gentle with myself when I don’t vacuum as often as I’d like, and explaining my time constraints to my kids. It’s not all work, though. Now that my first semester is over and I’m on break, we’re planning a family weekend away for some quality time. In short, I’m working to be present and responsive in a way that’s age-appropriate, and that balances the needs of everyone in our family.

The good news is that my kids are pretty resilient and independent little people. I credit Attachment Parenting for that – I believe that by responding to them consistently and compassionately as babies and toddlers, I helped them feel safe and confident. Of course I’ll never know how they would have turned out of I had parented them differently, but it’s safe to say this parenting style has worked for my family. It wasn’t always easy to get up in the middle of the night or to comfort a toddler mid-tantrum, but now that my kids are older I’m reaping the rewards. I’m still responding with sensitivity, but it looks different now, and that difference has allowed me greater freedom.

I’m happy to say that my first semester at school went well. My kids are proud of the work I’ve put in. My daughter, especially, loves to tell people about what I’m studying. It hasn’t been easy, but just like those sleepless nights in early parenting, I’m trusting that it will all pay off in the long run.

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API Announces New Attached Family Edition: “Voices of Breastfeeding” Double Issue

April 16, 2014
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The core of Attachment Parenting is responding with sensitivity. API recognizes that breastfeeding can be difficult in our society. It is hard to do something different than our family and friends, who are our social network prior to becoming parents, and to find a new support system for our choices. It is hard to navigate […]

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Lessons from Parents of a Sleepless Baby – Part 2

April 14, 2014
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Continued from Part 1 As we relearned loving sleep routines with our son, we did strike upon a few techniques that worked well for us as a family. We are Roman Catholic, and praying a quiet rosary with our son before bedtime has two benefits: It relaxes him, and it relaxes us. He delights in our voices, […]

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Lessons from Parents of a Sleepless Baby – Part 1

April 9, 2014
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by Abigail Flavin My husband and I learned about Attachment Parenting when, after reading many, many reviews of various baby books, we selected one by William Sears, MD. We found the principles and practices intriguing. They offered us clarity for our own thoughts and hopes for ourselves as parents. Repeatedly, we discussed the principles, sharing […]

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The Challenges of AP Fathering – Part 2

April 2, 2014
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Continued from The Challenges of AP Fathering – Part 1… To be very honest, I believe sensitivity is the key for a father to get along with Attachment Parenting. We must allow ourselves to feel like this, without fearing or caring about what others might think of our manhood. What is to be a man, […]

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The Challenges of AP Fathering

March 28, 2014
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Let me start off telling a little bit about myself and my family. My name is Thiago, I live in Brazil, and I have a beautiful one-year-old toddler, Dante. I am also currently an API Leader Applicant, preparing myself to start the first API support group in Brazil: API Rio. Dante was born at a […]

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Mother / Student

March 14, 2014
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Two months ago, I returned to school, some 14 years after completing my first degree. It was the first time I’d done anything more than a two-day workshop since I got married and had children. Right now I’m taking three classes at a local university, gathering prerequisites with the hope of eventually studying education and […]

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