Engaging vs. Distracting

Img_3910"Daddy, can you play with us?"

Play is the universal love language of children. Play with a child and I mean, really play with them and you will have effectively won their loyalty and love.

The best play is the kind with the least amount of toys and the greatest amount of running, screaming and laughing.

The boys, especially, could not get enough of Daddy chasing them at Uncle T's farm one evening last week. It was amazing how a simple game of chase was very nearly the highlight of their entire vacation.

It seems that so much children's play in today's society is centered on toys, gadgets, videos--artificial means of distraction.

I'm not interested in distracting my children. I want to engage them. Good, old-fashioned play achieves this goal. It also provides ample opportunities for instruction. Like it's not OK to push your brother down the ladder just because you're in a hurry to get away from the Big-Bad-Daddy-Monster.

And also, butterfly wings are not just for girls. Butterfly wings can magically transform a little boy into a super spy hero with secret powers.

Yes, it requires more effort to actually engage a child in play. It means I have to put down my magazine at the park and join my brave sailors as they pilot the pirated seas. It means I have to turn off the television and gather everyone together for a read-aloud story time using different voices for the characters.

But I have found that the rewards of engaging my children far outweigh the consequences of distracting my children. I'd rather they go around quoting lines from books instead of parroting lines from Dora the Explorer.

Not that I have anything against Dora, per se. Except that every time Dora asks where are we going? I feel like poking my eyeballs out and shouting: I am going to turn you off!!

With all the broo-ha-ha over tainted toys imported from China, I am further motivated to pull out the books and crayons, the blocks and Play-Doh and engage my children in interactive play.

Because now, more than ever, it could literally save their lives.