Why Playing With Your Children Can Be (Whisper It) A Little Bit Boring

Why Playing With Your Children Can Be (Whisper It) A Little Bit Boring

Listen to childcare experts and they'll tell you that play is a child's basic human right.. But what about the parents' rights? Why should we suffer the pain and torture of extricating tiny Lego blocks from shag pile rugs? Why should we stand helpless as our children boss us about playing interminable games with no beginning, middle or end, that usually end in tears or being attacked by tiny fists?

While I understand that interaction with your child is vitally important, quite often I find playing really boring. Why? Because I'm an adult, and I would rather be lounging around by a crystal blue Italian stream with large glass of wine, getting a foot massage from Ryan Gosling.


Instead, every day, I am forced to play 'Discoball' with my son, which involves kicking a ball around and dancing to the demonstration music of an 80s Yamaha keyboard. Admittedly, it was really good fun the first 500 times we played it, but now it's starting to wear thin.


And if I dare to utter the immortal words, 'Mummy needs to go and make the dinner' I'm met with a big sulky meltdown and end up having to play it until we're both exhausted.

But maybe I'm just being negative. Maybe everyone else is joyfully playing Hungry Hippos and building forts out of cushions and I'm missing out on some magical element of parenting?

"It is really boring," says photographer and mother of three Helen Rushbrook. "Anyone who says anything different is lying."

"It can be mind numbing," says Dan. "I think most parents feel guilty about this but unless you're a moron, why wouldn't you get bored?"

"Sod feeling guilty, I'm an adult, why would I like playing with toys?" says Helen Smallwood. "I love my child, enjoy chatting to him lots but Lego? No. It's a bit of a taboo subject, but parts of the business of child-rearing are, frankly, dull."

"When Barbie and her friends have ANOTHER tea party I watch muted TV over my daughter's shoulder," says Chris. "The moving pictures keep me awake."

The other, quite major problem with playing, is that kids are terrible at it. They don't share, they hate it when you're better than them, and they're as slippery and manipulative as a character in a Bret Easton Ellis novel. What's more –they think YOU'RE terrible at it, too.

"I always do it wrong," sighs Emma.


I act inappropriately at the tea party, make the wrong sound effects for a missile launcher...


"They always have the knack of desperately wanting to play with you exactly at the moment you desperately just want to sit," says Kelly. "And whenever you try to bring any structure into it, they shout at you and tell you you're doing it wrong."

That's also because, for children, playing with adults isn't just unfettered fun. It's also a not-so-subtle form of mind control. If they get a rare chance to boss you about and call the shots, they'll take it every time.

"I love him to bits, but six-year-olds suck at playing," says Andy. "Adults without kids bemoan parents who hand iPads loaded with apps to their little 'uns. They've obviously never been bossed about by a toddler or spent 45 minutes on creaking knees being Lightning McQueen in 'the big race' and getting b****ed for overshooting an invisible track."

"My most detested 'game' is when I have to pretend I'm him and he tells me everything I have to say. I hate being bossed around, but I suppose they do, too," muses mother of two Michelle. "It's revenge, really, isn't it?"

But maybe it's so difficult because we're not actually supposed to be doing it. After all, you never see a lioness kneeling on the floor to play 'Kill The Wildebeest' with her cubs. Shouldn't little ones be discovering the world by playing together, while the parents take on a more nurturing, independent role?

"Obsessed parents get on my nerves," says Helen S. "I think that talking to your child and reading to them is important, but toys are for playing with other kids."

"A child psychologist friend of mine never plays with her kids," adds Emma. "She says it's damaging, and mothers should nurture not 'friend'. I'm in!"

Really, though, what are we supposed to do? Issue a lifetime ban on playing and concentrate on our motherly roles of bottom wiper and cuddler? Get up off the carpet and leave them to it, sitting stranded in the living room with their toys and a crestfallen look on their faces? Or grin and bear yet another hour of 'Ninjas'?

Personally, I'm not sure I can cope with the tears when I reject my son's play requests - and let's face it, would it kill me to kick a ball around for half an hour? So unless you're very strong, you will probably cave in.

"Eleven years and two children has taught me that no matter what you do, you always come out of it with guilt," Kelly shrugs. "That and mild alcohol dependency."

Still, at least now I know I'm not the only one who finds games a chore. Now if someone could pour me a glass – I've got to play Discoball. AGAIN.