One of my mom friends recently shared how she turned ‘leftover night’ into her kids’ favorite night of the week. She opened a ‘restaurant’ in her dining room. She lit a few candles, played some fancy music and created handwritten menus listing leftovers from the week before. She put on her apron and pretended to be a waitress, and coincidentally the chef, restaurant owner and bus girl. Her family chose what they wanted from the menu, while getting rid of all those Tupperware containers filled with previously unwanted meals. Genius, huh? Her kids loved it and played right along!
It was such a simple idea based around role play. Role and pretend play encourage kids to use their imagination and problem solve while having fun. It reminded me when my kids were younger and I used similar techniques to get them to do tasks around the house. With something as simple as a piece of paper listing goods or services, or talking in a foreign accent, you can make memories with your children and win at parenting.
When my daughter was in preschool, she was told to clean her room. Piles of clothes and toys on the floor overwhelmed her, so an hour or so passed as she sat in her room not cleaning it. Later, she asked me if I could make her a list of things that she needed to do to get the job done. I took one of her crayons and a sheet of paper and began to make a list with checkboxes beside each item. I also drew the item next to the word, because she was still learning to read. For instance, I drew a shirt to remind her to put her clothes in the hamper, a teddy bear to pick up toys and a book to organize her bookshelf. She loved the sense of accomplishment that she felt to check each box. This is how she cleaned her room for years. It was during this time that we also started to play ‘hotel.’ I was the hotel manager and my daughter was the hotel maid. I numbered the bathrooms as 101-102 and bedrooms as 201-204 in our home with post it notes. We used the check list for each room, labeling the top of each list with hotel room numbers. Nothing like getting a room clean in 15 minutes if you have a guest wanting to check in early. You know the worst part of laundry? It’s not the folding, it’s putting the clothes up. Unless you have a maid to bring the towels to each room or the dry cleaning to the needy guest in 202.
Turning daily household tasks into play are great opportunities to spend time together as a family and make memories. It doesn’t have to stop at chores either. I think we all have tried to lighten the mood by role playing with our kids. For small injuries, I would take the kids to “Doctor Dad;” making siren noises as I carried them into his office and using my most professional voice to ask, ‘Doctor, are you ready for you next patient?’ Transforming meal time into an evening at a restaurant or bath time into a day at the spa can change your family’s perspective. It is a simple way to create a few laughs and add some variety to our weekly routines. I have no shame in my ‘mom game’ to say that I have played ‘spa’ a few times to get a well lotioned foot massage by a seven year old. There are no child labor laws in my home.
As my daughter gets older, the same little tricks don’t work so I have learned to up my ‘mom game.’ This past summer, my daughter and husband competed in Cupcake Wars. Guess who ate all the cupcakes; I mean, acted as the celebrity judge? No shame in this ‘mom game.’ Last weekend, we reorganized and decorated my daughter’s room without any complaints, not even curdling cries from the clothes piled in the closet. I just pretended we were decorating for a HGTV design show. I showed my daughter what decor and materials she could use and taught her how to spray paint. Her creativity and confidence exploded. The previous whines of ‘why do we have to clean my room’ transformed into design choices great enough to make Joanna Gaines proud. Yesterday, I had a ‘personal stylist’ provide an instagram worthy blowout and straighten my hair in the comfort of my master bath suite. I was able to sit back, relax and respond to messages from my faithful instafans. It’s the ‘glamorous life of the instafamous.’
I have also been known to get coffee brought to me in bed with a little help of my friend, the French accent! Why shouldn’t I pretend my twelve year old daughter is a barista in little bistro in France? I have already been a nurse, personal chef, laundry machine operator, math tutor, and a therapist and it’s only Tuesday. Just wait till this weekend when my daughter performs at a cheer competition! I turn into a makeup artist, hair stylist, personal assistant, chauffeur and raging sports fan to one very important athlete! And now, it’s getting real!