Trying out PlayTime

2009 December 31
by Evan Lenz

Thanks to Bethany for suggesting the Playful Parenting book, by Lawrence Cohen, in response to my “Connecting with my kids” post. I’ve now skimmed most of the book, and my wife has read the entire thing and enjoyed it.

We’re interested in trying out one technique in particular. In chapter 9, “Follow Your Child’s Lead,” Cohen introduces “PlayTime,” a scheduled, more intense form of playing with your kids where you make an explicit, concerted effort to follow their lead, wherever they want to go, for a specific period of time.

The basic format of PlayTime is quite simple. The parent or some other adult sets aside regular one-on-one time with a child. The adult offers the child undivided attention with no interruptions and with a clear focus on connection, engagement, and interaction. In a sense, PlayTime is just Playful Parenting Plus, where the “plus” means more enthusiasm, more joining, more commitment to closeness and confidence, more fun, a more welcoming attitude toward their feelings, more willingness to put one’s own feelings aside, more active and boisterous play. In addition, you don’t answer the phone or cook dinner or take a nap during PlayTime.

One of the things that attracts me to this particular technique is that it is a commitment for a specific period of time. It is “time-boxed.” I get to go all-out, knowing that I don’t need to worry about pacing myself beyond the agreed-upon length of time. It’s a safe way to start building my playing muscles. A high-weight/low-rep strength training program. At least that’s one way to look at it. And I don’t have to feel guilty when I’m not doing it all the time.

Another thing I like about it is how much the kids will love it. We’ll be upfront with them about what we want to do. And we’re going to schedule specific times. With two parents and three kids, that’s six sessions total. We’re going to cover each of these once a week. And we’re starting with a 30-minute period. That may seem short, but we want to be realistic.

During PlayTime, I’ll let my child know that what we do is entirely up to them. I’ll follow along, infusing the play with whatever energy I can muster. And I’ll let them remain in charge for the duration. It will be hard work but it will also be rewarding. We’re going to forge some nice connections, and I’ll have a chance to get some deeper glimpses into each of my children’s worlds.

After I’ve had some chances to try this, I’ll be reporting back on my experiences. Stay tuned.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. January 1, 2010

    Looking forward to hearing how it goes! Thanks for the link. ~Bethany

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