Category Archives: Play

Hide and Seek

What I learned about play.

I’m a little afraid to admit this, but I’m going to anyway. I think giving some light to this failing of mine, and how I plan to improve it, might help myself and others.

Here goes: I’m not particularly good at playing with my kids.

No-one tells you how hard the simple act of play can be. Or maybe they do, and it just doesn’t register, in the way that, “Get as much sleep as you can now, because there will be precious little given to you when you have a new baby,” didn’t register with me.

And just because I’m not very good at play does not mean I don’t do it. Because I do. A lot.

But I’ve recently realised two things about play:

  1. I put the “need to do” tasks first. Tasks like laundry, vacuuming, tidying the kitchen and folding clothes.
  2. When I play with the kids, I’m not always there. Sure, I’m there with them, squeezing the playdough or cutting and gluing and crafting. But often I’m not engaged with what’s happening.

Instead I’m thinking about the laundry that needs doing, or the emails I have to answer. I think about the process my afternoon will follow as I tidy up, get dinner ready, run through showers and books and bedtime rhythms. I’m not there.

And not only does this steal my attention from the kids, but it robs me of energy and joy.

For so long I would put off the kids’ requests for hide and seek, until I would eventually acquiesce and play half-heartedly for 10 minutes. But I began noticing the sheer joy they got from playing – with me, no less – and suddenly it no longer felt like an imposition. It felt like a privilege.

So I have renewed my effort to really be in the game, whether it’s hide and seek, snap, puzzle-playing or playdough-making. And the day that I asked our four year old if she wanted to play hide and seek? Well, that was priceless. It was also humbling.

So I think we need to learn to adjust our thinking on what needs to happen. Does the ironing need to happen? Or does your child need to feel like you want to spend time together?

And yes, the laundry does need to happen. And the dinner and the sweeping and the seemingly endless tasks involved in running a household. But what if – sometimes, at least – these happened after play? What if they weren’t the number one priority all the time? What if we said yes to play first?

Grow your account balance.

I can’t remember where I read it, but there is an idea in parenting that I have found incredibly helpful when making these sorts of decisions and working out my priorities for the way we want to live.

The idea that we have a ‘bank account’ with each of our children, and playing with them, reading and nurturing and reacting with kindness and compassion all deposit into this bank account. These actions help to grow your balance.

When things like errands or cleaning or phonecalls or work need to happen, even when the kids want to play? These are withdrawals, and they shrink the balance.

The idea is, of course, to keep the balance as healthy as possible, while also recognising that withdrawals are normal and something that our kids have to get used to.

How this affects my decisions.

Instead of going to the default way of thinking (ie. get the work done first so that the play can come later) I can instead picture what the balance of each bank account looks like and make a better, more well-rounded choice based on that.

So I’ve been saying yes to hide and seek so much more. And do you know what I’m seeing? The kids are happier not only when I play with them, but they are also more content to then play together for much longer. Part of that is simply the ages they’re at, but I also think it’s a reflection of our choice to engage more and to mindfully choose to spend quality time with them.

Side note:

I know the pleasure and the frustration that is full-time stay-at-home parenting. When your kids are at a certain age all they want is you and your company. They don’t care if you need to do the laundry. They don’t see that dinner needs to be cooked and that you’re the one to do it. But your role includes those mundane, house-keeping duties just as much as playing hide and seek with your little ones. This results in (I can only speak for myself of course) a deep frustration.

I understand this, and am saying so because there are days when you will not be able to play endless games of hide and seek. Nor can you bear the thought of pulling out the playdough and the ensuing cleanup, because you’ve just mopped the floor.

So I get it, and the last thing I want is for what I have said above to be misconstrued as criticism or a veiled attempt to shame anyone for not doing enough. You know what needs to happen in your own life, so please read this as a support, not a criticism.

To conclude, the core idea of this post is one that could really apply to most areas of our life:

On those days that we can, I think we should.


Can I ask, do you feel a tension between play and work? How do you manage it?

5 Awesome Activities for your Preschooler

5 fun activities for preschoolers

Imagine this: You are a book fiend. You love to read. Biographies, poetry, fiction. Anything. You will read anything to quench your thirst for words.

One day, a mean, old boss lady comes and takes away all but three of your precious books. And says you may get them back one day, when she has time. Or when you’ve eaten your vegetables.  Or when she’s finished the ironing.

So you return to the same three books, over and over. Because you love reading. But it’s pretty bloody boring reading the same ones again and again.

This is how I imagine Isla feels when I roll out the same three creative play time options:

That the mean, old boss lady (ahem, me) won’t let her try new things. And while painting is really fun and awesome, surely there is something else she can try?

Pwease? Pwease, Mum?


5 Super Easy Creative Play Activities for your Preschooler

I don’t know about you, but these sound ridiculously fun and super awesome and I can’t wait to try them myself the kids are going to love them. What’s more, they don’t cost much (if anything – most of what you need you most likely have at home), are easy to make, non-toxic and the kids can use their imagination – which, let’s face it, is the best toy of all.

What are the go-to activities in your house? What do the kids always want to do if given the choice?

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Easy Homemade Paint

homemade paint recipe

My kids Love painting. Isla would paint every day. Except I won’t let her. Because I’m a jerk like that.

It’s MESSY. And they have FUN. And get CREATIVE. It’s horrible.

Obviously I’m joking. But I do find painting one of those play time activities that I avoid more than I should. But last week via Pinterest I discovered something that will make Isla incredibly happy and me less concerned about what surfaces (or humans) will wind up covered in paint…

A Super Easy Homemade Paint Recipe

This recipe is for chalk or sidewalk paint. So as it dries, the colours become more pastel but more opaque. It’s actually really cool.

It’s incredibly simple and once we’d mixed it up (great little maths lesson) it occupied the kids for an hour! An hour of outside, creative play! An hour for me to clean the toilets! An hour where I could make phonecalls. Plus it’s non-toxic. And you likely have all the ingredients in your pantry. Bonus: it won’t kill the dog if he drinks it (scientifically proven fact). Incredible indeed!

easy homemade paint

All You Need is:

  • 1 cup cornflour
  • 1 cup water
  • a variety of liquid food colouring
  • a muffin pan or plastic cups
  • paintbrushes or sponges

  1. Mix the cornflour and water together, stirring to remove lumps.
  2. Divide into muffin pan or plastic cups.
  3. Add a few drops of food colouring to each cup or pan and mix.
  4. Give the kids the paintbrushes, a patch of paving and carte blanche.

(The food colouring does stain the hands, but it washes off quickly. By the time shower-hour rolled around, it had already worn off the kids’ hands.)

Super simple and ridiculously fun.


Do your kids love painting? Have they painted anything/anyone inappropriate?

Last time Isla had free rein with some paints and a paintbrush, she turned herself into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Hence my hesitancy with the whole painting thing!

what happens when a toddler is unsupervised while painting

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Play Time: Water Play

Stinking hot summer days often mean cranky-head kids, cooped up inside for hours while the sun beats down.

This play-time activity (you can see the previous posts here) is great any time of the day if you have a shaded area in your backyard, or in the late afternoon if not.

Water play is basic and probably needs no introduction, but it’s usually the simplest activities that give our kids the most mileage. (Balloons and a cardboard box, anyone?)

You need:

  • water
  • hose/sprinkler
  • various buckets
  • cups, bowls, strainers etc


Let the kids have at it.

Simple is good.


Play-Time: More Handmade Christmas Wrapping Paper

On Friday I got all serious on you, so today I thought I could show you the fun, messy catalyst for my “perfection is overrated” post.

Even though my Play Time posts are geared towards those of you with kids, this particular activity is so joyful and fun that I would highly recommend anyone with an hour or two and some old clothes to give it a whirl.


You’ll need:

some colourful acrylic paints
plastic bowls/plates
brown kraft paper roll
old clothes
old facewasher for clean up

1. Roll out your kraft paper on the grass, or a painter’s drop-sheet. Hold down with a couple of weights to stop it blowing around.

2. Squirt some of your paints into the bowls, or you can fling the paint straight from the tubes. A combination of both is great for both the experience and the visual result.

3. Have at it, friends! Fling, drip, splat, whirl and flick to your heart’s content.

4. Leave to dry completely (this may take a few hours if you use as much paint as we did)

5. Use as wrapping paper or as an accent to plain kraft paper. And have fun telling everyone about your painting adventures on Christmas Day.

This would also be a fun and inexpensive way to create art work for your walls. Either cut the kraft paper to size and frame a few to hang, gallery-style, or buy some pre-made canvases from a craft store.