Play with your kids

2008-09-25 00:00

"Our children don’t mind if we work, but they do mind about the quality of the time they spend with us," said Nikki Bush before launching into a passionate explanation of the importance of parents playing with their children. This well-known advocate of play was in the city recently to address a parenting workshop at The Wykeham Collegiate Junior School in Clarendon.

Bush started out in public relations and marketing but she explains that after the birth of her first son who is now 13, "I literally ‘fell into my passion’ after hearing a parenting presentation in which I caught on to the power of play. Now I use my skills in my area of passion to package and communicate creative parenting ideas." She also has a second son aged nine and she and her family live in Johannesburg.

As a working mother who spends up to two-and-a-half hours a day in her car ferrying her children, Bush knows the challenges that face contemporary parents. She makes presentations to groups of parents around the country, in a variety of settings, including the corporate world. She said: "Globalisation and connectivity are changing the world of work very fast. Connectivity is also blurring the lines between work and play. It used to be based on hours, but it’s moving towards being based on productivity and projects delivered, which requires a relationship of trust. People are starting to say ‘pay me for my output, not for the hours I spend in the office’. Parents are starting to say ‘If my boss can get me at home at 10 pm, then I have the right to be at my child’s school function at 10 am in the morning. The relationship between employers and employees is changing, but there’s a long way to go still. In the meantime, people experience a sense of discomfort and dis-ease in the workplace as employers make the change from their old expectations to a new style of relationship.

"Up to now, corporations didn’t understand children and families. They didn’t get that children don’t fit into a corporate timetable. However, there’s growing awareness that families are important — that’s where it’s at today.

"Family life is not about children only or parents only, it should be family-centred and not completely child-centred. Parenting is as much about us as it is about our children. It’s like a dance, parents and children dancing together. It’s not about being perfect. We need to find what works for our family, be creative and flexible and willing to try different things."

Bush is dedicated to reminding parents to play with their children and helping them make the time they spend together count, brief though it may be. Her business is called The Bright Ideas Outfit and it markets a range of toys and other resources to help parents engage creatively and meaningfully with their children. In addition to being a popular speaker, she has also written several books. Her advice to busy parents is to try to be present emotionally and not just physically in the time they do spend with their children each day, and to make time to play. "Switch off your cellphone, switch off the TV and connect, face to face and even skin to skin. We are at risk of losing face-to-face communication. Children deal a lot in ‘virtual realities’ and in a ‘hi-tech’ world, but they need real and they need ‘high touch’. They need their parents to be present and connected to learn about life and relationships. They want us to share time, space and pace with them. Playing with our children can do all of this and more.

"I believe passionately in the power of play because play equals connection and connection equals play. Play brings down barriers and makes people connect. Play is also creative and creativity is one of the ‘X-factors for success’ that is going to be required in the future world of work, so it’s important to keep our children’s creativity alive."

As a final word of advice, she identified a danger for busy parents who use “To do” lists to manage their time. "If your children are on your ‘To do’ list, don’t reprioritise them to the next day like other items on the list. Everything else can be held over but not your


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