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Playing Outside

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hello! I am a new poster here. I have enjoyed reading though for a while. I am in a slump with outdoor play and need help. I know it is so important and my dd loves it (she is 4). The problem is I do not love it as much. I enjoy being outside, but the playing part is where I struggle.

How much do you actually play with your kids outside vs being out there while they play?

My dd is an only child. We do have people over, but not every day. She loves pretend play, but wants me to do with her most of the time. I do not mind swinging, swimming, and going for walks. I just have a hard time with the pretend play part of it and being able to do it for a long period of time.

I feel like a terrible parent for not enjoying outside play for a good portion of time. I also do not feel comfortable letting her be outside alone. Is it bad to go out on the deck and let her play alone in the yard. We do that some, but I always end up feeling sorry for her as she plays alone.

Any advice?
post #2 of 16
My ds routinely plays alone outside. We have a fenced in backyard, and neighbours that are older (ds is 3.5, and our neighbours are 4 & 8) so they are in school. Ds will play with them when they are in the yard, but when they are not, he plays by himself. I have a 3 month old dd and cannot be outside with him entertaining him. I also think it's important for him to play on his own, and enjoy being by himself.
Some things we have outside for him:
tire swing
sandbox with loads of things play with in it
sidewalk chalk to draw on the patio stones
lots of discarded plastic containers for 'collecting things'.

If he's bored, I just give him a task (i.e) go find your favourite rock and we can paint it later; or please pick mommy some beautiful flowers (we have wild flowers).

As far as the pretend play, I don't know what to tell you. I'm not a huge fan of it either, but I'll play into it (i.e) "I'm so hot, could you please go and make me an ice cream cone?" etc.

I hope some of that helps -- I'm sure your doing a great job, your dd doesn't need to be entertained all day...pick and chose the play you want to do with her and encourage her to do the others on her own.

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
That helps tremendously. It is just nice to have some reassurance. I am a big believer in independent play and I think it is important that she play alone at times. Inside it does not bother me as much, but there is something about outside that I start to feel guilty and sorry for her. She has a great play set and great yard. With the reassurance from others it makes me feel better about hanging out on the deck while she plays!
post #4 of 16
My guys play alone a lot. My youngest plays outside for an hour or so in the mornings when his brothers are at preschool. I'd say at least 75% of their outdoor play is unsupervised...they imagine up all sorts of things just fine on their own.
post #5 of 16
Are there any neighborhood children for your DD to play with? I don't think you're a bad mom at all. I do not enjoy pretend play in the least, and don't often play with my kids in that way.

FWIW, my 4yo is home alone with me during the day while my other kids are at school. She plays by herself the majority of the day. She'll play on the swingset or ride her bike or rollerskate while I'm working in the garden.
post #6 of 16
My 3 year old son plays alone some too, don't feel guilty. They need to learn to play independently (I think) and figure things out themselves rather than need a parent there to be happy while playing, because we can't always be around right there to entertain them. My 3 year old plays with trains, sandbox, ect. and sometimes I join and sometimes I watch or sometimes I need to do things while he is doing that. I think as mothers today we put too much guilt on ourselves; I don't remember my parents EVER playing with me outside, my Dad played with us some on the floor (wrestling type games, and pony) but that was limited. Alls I remember my Mom doing was cooking, housework or she was AT work so she wasn't there. I think it taught us to be creative with our play because we didn't have a whole lot of toys like there is now, either.

If you decide to have other children, that will help too (tremendously) because then your little ones can play with each other. When my other 2 boys get home from school they have a blast. I think its hard sometimes for us adults to go back and do that "pretend" play for extended amounts of time because we are thinking in the back of our minds, " I need to do this, I need to do that.." lol

Sounds like you are doing a great job!
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much. I think I just needed to hear someone else say it. I totally agree with the fact that I do not remember my parents playing with me very much at all. I do not know what it is that makes me feel bad about the outside play part. I guess it is that she requests me to play more outside. When we are inside she is fine playing by herself or along side me. I think too I enjoy some of the things inside such as crafty things and reading to her so it seems easier I guess to give her that time.

Unfortunately there are not too many children her age (or close to her age) in our neighborhood. During the school year she goes to preschool two days a week and we do have friends over sometimes. I want her to play outside every day so we do not always have people around. She does have a brother or sister on the way so one day she will have someone else around besides myself or dh!

Mandymom- you are very right about the pretend play and other things on my mind. I can go sleuthing adventures only so long before how much laundry needs to be done starts creeping back in to the mind!

I think the more she plays alone outside the more she will get used to it. The times I have said I am going to sit on the deck and read she grumbles a little then starts playing away and can spend quite a bit of time doing so. I have to find a way to not feel sorry for her! I grew up with three sisters so I was always used to having others around. I feel bad at times that my dd does not have that yet!

Thanks for letting me get it all out and for your great responses. It really does help!
post #8 of 16
Well, my kids have sibs, and they find each other much more fun than me , so I don't actually "play" with them much. I watch them, talk to them, encourage them, but I don't really play much.
post #9 of 16
I'm not much of playful mom either. I interact in so many other ways. I used to feel guilty but now (DD 7, DS 3), I don't feel guilty at all. We engage each other all day long...sometimes playfully but mostly in other ways....mealtimes, chores, schooling, reading, and just plain old conversations. I feel much more at ease with the non-playful mom in me :-).
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your continued responses! I do feel so much better. I definitely enjoy other things we do (reading, playing games, painting, etc.) I am always outside with her and available for swing pushing and conversation. I had just started to feel guilty when she wanted me to play with her the entire time we are outside and I did not feel up to it. I appreciate hearing your advice and what you all do! Thanks!!
post #11 of 16
I haven't read the other posts so I'm sorry if I repeat. I think it's good for children to have time alone to play. It strengthens their own imagination and helps them learn how to entertain themselves.

Also, have you though of planting a small garden? This would keep you busy and she could have some kid size gardening tools. Plus, you'll have healthy foods and be teaching her at the same time.
post #12 of 16
Originally Posted by SAHDS View Post
I haven't read the other posts so I'm sorry if I repeat. I think it's good for children to have time alone to play. It strengthens their own imagination and helps them learn how to entertain themselves.

Also, have you though of planting a small garden? This would keep you busy and she could have some kid size gardening tools. Plus, you'll have healthy foods and be teaching her at the same time.

To answer the OP, much of my "outdoor play" time is actually just being outside while DS2 plays. We have a big yard and I have a garden, so I'm usually gardening while DS plays or picks flowers. On Fridays, I wash and wax the car while DS "helps" me or washes his toy trucks in the water. He also helps me water the plants and weed (although the weeding is tricky because he doesn't know what stays and what goes )
post #13 of 16
I have an only child.
When my dd was younger (4 and under) she wanted me to push her on the swing or pull the sled or see her garden in the sandbox. We would play I-Spy together. She wanted a lot more interaction. I was usually fine with it. We had some really special times together.

When dd was 5 & 6 she just wanted to run and explore mostly. She was fine with me just being in sight. I would walk around the yard for exercise.

At age 8 dd happily does her thing in the yard and I do yard work or read a book.

If you like some types of play but not pretend play then tell your dd what you are willing to play or bring a timer out so you only do pretend play for so long. Pretty soon she'll outgrow wanting you to play so much even if she doesn't have siblings.
post #14 of 16
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned yet or not, but here are some of the things that I do when my 3 (6yrs, 4yrs, and 2yrs) get bored playing outside:

Red light/Green light
Simon Says
Scavengar hunt
Sidewalk chalk (I have them right me a message)
Flower or Leaf hunt
collecting rocks
I hide easter eggs and we have an egg hunt with special treats inside
I give then yard work to do, they love it
Give them child sissors and let them cut the grass and leaves

I hope this helps. Here are some other things you can do
Fill a kiddy pool with sand to make a sand box
Give her water balloons to through around the yard
Plant a small veggie garden with her, then she can take care of it and pick fruit, water it by hand, etc
Let her pick and area of the fense if possible to paint. You can even use kids washable paint. My kids love to do this.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great suggestions.

I do have a small flower garden and container plants. She loves helping me with those and it is definitely something I enjoy doing outside with her. She also waters just about everything in the yard and does not mind doing that alone!

The past few days I have told her before we go out the things I will do and that also part of the time I am going to work on some things (today I wrote thank you notes while she played.) It went just fine! She does have a great imagination and had a fabulous time!

I think some of the guilt is just my hang up about her feeling lonely. I also think she is going through a phase where "nothing is fun" if she does not have someone to play with when she wants. Her being sad and pitiful when we will not play is relatively new. It seems to be more so with outside play than inside. When we are inside she is fine with independent play. Outside she seems to expect a little more. However, today she moaned a little then went right on playing.

I love the suggestions to use scissors (she is a big fan), easter egg hunts (even now would be a big hit), and water balloons.

Thanks again. I will say that our days outside lately have been a complete joy just due to the fact I am becoming more comfortable with just being out there with her and not feeling the need to play all the time. I hope this does not sound bad! I really do enjoy my time with her and would not trade it for anything.

I have found too that it is nice to sit back and watch what she finds to do. I guess I have just always felt guilty "watching." She is spirited and full of love for the outdoors. I have enjoyed watching her adventure on her own (and having conversations about it as she checks in with me!)!

Thank you again for all the great responses!
post #16 of 16
i was an only child until i was 10. i remember just doing my own thing while my mom gardened or sat on the porch with a book. i never had a huge crowd of friends (there weren't many kids around), so i learned to amuse myself. i can remember, very clearly, pushing my imaginary friend on the swings! i also had a sandbox and would build cities and roadways, etc. my mom was never big on playing, but i remember her showing me how to do stuff like make dandelion or clover necklaces, what were weeds and what were plants in the garden, helping me make a "doll house" out of bark and leaves... she also taught me to read by the age of 4, and after that i spent a ton of time with my nose in a book!

i myself have 4 little boys who want to do nothing but run in circles or dig in the dirt pile, so i can't help you much, but i thought that maybe by telling you what i remember from my childhood, it might help!
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