I don’t know how to play with my kid

I don’t know how to play with my baby. Phew, I said it. I have feared this for awhile, but it has recently come to the forefront now that I’m home with Baby G all the time. So go ahead, slap me with the worst mom of the century award. I want to enjoy playing with her, I just don’t know how.

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She’s in a weird developmental stage at 9 months, where she no longer wants to be held or cuddled all the time. She’ll crawl over to me and cuddle for a minute and then be off to go put dog food in her mouth. I follow her and take the dog food away and say “not for babies!” and then give her a Cheerio instead. I watch her explore, I watch her play.

Sometimes I get on the floor and watch her play more closely. Sometimes I guide her play by putting certain toys in front of her. Sometimes I read her a book, but the books she enjoys take about 45 seconds to read since they are about five cardboard pages. Sometimes we play Peek-A-Boo, or I crawl around on my hands and knees with her. She finds that pretty funny.

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But I run out of ideas quickly. I find myself checking my iPhone while on the floor with her, or making excuses to get up to get something done.

It’s better when Joe (my husband from here on out will be referred to as Joe) is around, and we can sit on the floor together and laugh at her funny little antics and talk to her so the other adult can hear too. When I’m alone, I try to talk to her all day long like Smug Parenting Books tell you to do, but I find it challenging.

I’d like to be a more interactive mother that does more than just take stuff out of her hands (dirt, dog food, magazines, cables) before it gets to her mouth.

When I’d come home from work when my mom would watch Baby G all day, they’d be on the floor together with 10 stuffed animals spread around them, each with a different voice and personality. So now I’m the one at home with her and I feel like to make staying home worth it, I have to compete with that. Thanks, Mom.

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Today I’m going to a play group, maybe I’ll probe the better moms there and find out how they play with their babies. I’ll get back to you on it.

Is anyone with me, or am I just a very wicked mother? Any ideas on playing with a creature that is somewhere between infant and toddler?

  • Robin Gelsinger

    Carly, over all do you have a happy baby, (Trick question as I know she is) sometimes they just need to explore their world on their own. She will fuss when she wants your attention. Then sit on the floor or pick her up in your arms and dance around the room, go for a walk, or read (remembering that she is so young ans that a quick story is what she can do). Stack blocks and laugh when she knocks them down. I think you are a great Mom. Everyone will interact with her differently and she will learn that all people are different.

    • creatingmom

      Thanks, Robin, you are always so encouraging. Blocks are a great idea. I think I’ll have to get some now. She does love knocking things down. She just has such a fun personality and I want to make sure I’m fostering it the best I can.

  • http://journeytodomesticbliss.blogspot.com ImperfectAnna

    Trust me, you are not the only one who feels this way! I ask people all the time what they do to entertain their little ones. The fact that you’re worried about it means that you care; you’re a good mom. It’s hard to entertain someone when they can’t tell you what they want and when you’re not exactly even sure the way they think. I’m almost certain every SAHM I know has thought the same thing. And I bet when you were Baby G’s age, your mom was just figuring out every stuffed animal needed it’s own personality. ;)

    Here are some things I do with my eight-month-old: We signed up for Parent-Tot Swim Lessons. We go swimming every Tuesday for 30 minutes and because we pay for it, I’m obligated to go (you know the whole social commandment thing). Some weeks we go to the library for the Infant Lapsit on Wednesdays. If the baby is sleeping or I’m feeling exceptionally lazy, we pass on it but I try and make up for it by singing the songs and reading stories as if we had gone. Pandora has some good kid stations if you like a little backup. Sesame Street and Raffi are two of her favorites, but she loves Motown, too.

    Once we established a routine, it took some of the “what should we do now” out of the day, but I still try to do something a little different every day. She wakes up and nurses, we both eat breakfast, then I play on the floor with her keeping it kind of mellow. Then I read her a story and she takes a nap. When she wakes up, she nurses we play for a bit, grab some lunch and then play with more energy. We crawl around on the floor, dance, laugh, sing, tickle. We go for a walk if it’s nice. This is also a great time to get some short errands done before we read another and she takes another nap. Then she wakes up around 2:30 and nurses. And we play. She loves peek a boo. I’ll let her play in the exersaucer for 15 minutes or so. Then my husband comes home, and like you said, things are a bit more normal.

    I do try and talk to her as much as possible, but sometimes it makes me feel a little crazy. I rotate her toys because she gets bored with them quickly. I put some in the toy box and then get them out later so she gets more excited about them. The grocery store can be fun if she’s in a good mood. She likes to see other people and we go over the list together. We talk about colors, shapes, smells. As for the iPhone or computer, I also find it tempting to check it once I start getting a little antsy from lack of social interaction (with people who talk back) but I have started leaving it in the other room or upstairs. If someone calls, I will answer, but I try to not text message or blog, surf the internet too much if it’s play time. But on the other side of that, it’s okay that she learns to play independently, too. You don’t have to be on the floor with her the entire day. It’s a good skill for her to be self-sufficient for a short period. I just try to do my “me time” things during naps and after she goes to bed. They are only this small for such a short time, we have to remember to enjoy it, but also be thankful that it’s a phase and they will grow out of it eventually!

    Sorry for the novel.

    • creatingmom

      Are you kidding, I love novels. I love hearing about someone else’s routine. Putting the iPhone in a different room is a good suggestion. That one is going to be hard for me – you might see a post about it in the future. I think you’ve got a great perspective, because it shouldn’t be about guilt (as my aunt on Facebook told me I need to relax) but it should be about enjoying this short period as much as we can. Part of the reason we can enjoy it is BECAUSE it is short. Or, at least I hope I won’t be pulling magazines from her mouth when she’s 16. But who knows. I still chew on pens pretty bad.

  • http://ididntlisten.blogspot.com/ Lauren Markman

    Carly – you are letting your little girl explore the world – and that is what she needs to do at 9 months. You are not a horrible mommy! The truth is that most children’s activities are boring (for a long time: I currently hate playing Candy Land), but you can still have some fun. In addition to stacking/knocking over blocks, try these:
    -Fill a shallow pan with water and let your girl float/sink things into it (splashing will result, so do this in the kitchen)
    -Tape some paper to the kitchen floor and let her draw with toddler crayons (if you feel brave, you can do this with finger paints, too – most little ones love the feel of the paint and there are lots of non-toxic ones)
    -Hide and Find: Let her watch you hide something and then ask her to help you find it (babies love finding things!)
    -Blow up balloons and bat them around
    -Box play – get a box big enough for her to fit into, and then turn it into things (a fort, a car, a house…) Turn it over and cut a hole in it large enough for her to crawl through
    -Let her look into a mirror and point out each other’s body parts (eyes, nose, mouth…)
    -Put a bunch of pots and bowls on the kitchen floor and let her explore the sounds they make when they are beaten with spoons

    Yes, all of these are supervised and their success will vary – but I hope it helps. Also – I LOVE that you are talking to her all the time, even if you are just narrating the things that you do as you do them. Hang in there!

    • creatingmom

      Lauren! It’s funny because she does love playing with water, and by playing, I mean dumping it all over herself. I will definitely keep these in mind. She’s not really there developmentally to draw or paint, except she does love to paint the inside of her mouth with pens, mud, anything she can find. A true artist! I think the box idea is awesome, and it will be box central around here in a few weeks when we move!

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  • http://faithfulinthelittle.wordpress.com Paula W

    I wrestled with this balance so much. I am so scared of ruining my kid. I don’t want to be neglectful, but I don’t want to spoil her and not give her opportunities to learn to entertain herself. I got myself all stressed out for while. Now I just try to balance it out a little, so every wake cycle she spends part of the time playing with her own toys with me in the room doing other things, and part of the time I do something one on one with her. The time ratio changes depending on what’s going on, but I couldn’t relax until I started doing this. It’s a lot better now, but you know me – I’m a worrier.