Playtime Permutation

Playtime Permutations: A Christmastime (or Anytime!) Tradition

One of the reasons I love homeschooling my children is so that they can have the time and shared experiences that will allow them to develop good friendships with each other.  But, since we are home together most days, I find that sometimes I feel like we are only a “group” and we are not focused on “individuals.”  We came up with a solution for our family called “Playtime Permutation.”

Essentially, this is a simple rotation of one-on-one playtime.  Perhaps you could also call this “speed dating?”  Each pair gets 15 minutes and chooses one thing to do together.  We get everyone going in their locations, set the timer, enjoy each other, and then we rotate.

In order for this to work, your youngest children involved need to be able to be responsible enough to play on their own for 15 minutes.  My four-year-old and six-year-old do well with this, but my two-year-old wouldn’t yet succeed, so she is not yet part of the rotation.

I find that my children are able to develop relationships with each other as individuals, not just as a big family group.  They anticipate and look forward to our Playtime Permutation day, making plans for what they want to do with each other.   I enjoy participating, too, as a mother, because I don’t always have time to sit and play with my children individually.  I appreciate the chance to focus on them one-on-one.

We enjoy doing this about once a month, and have decided to do it on or around any holidays.  With all the transition times, it takes about 1.5 hours to complete.  We find it is a very satisfying family tradition.

I have five children participating, so our rotation looks like this:

First Rotation:
Child #5 with Child #2
Child #4 with Child #1
Child #3 with Mom

Second Rotation:
Child #5 with Child #1
Child #4 with Mom
Child #3 with Child #2

Third Rotation:
Child #1 with Mom
Child #4 with Child #2
Child #3 with Child #5

Fourth Rotation
Child #2 with Child #1
Child #4 with Child #3
Child #5 with Mom

Fifth Rotation
Child #2 with Mom
Child #4 with Child #5
Child #3 with Child #1

If you have more or fewer children participating, you will need to alter the schedule, but you will find that the “permutation” is an excellent math exercise in understanding combinations!

A few tips:
*Hold to the time limit, even if one pair wishes to extend the time. They can get together and continue after the permutation time.
*Help each pair choose a location and toy or focus before getting started.  This will prevent any frustration or wasted time.
*We find this is a contention-free experience, even for siblings that may have been fighting together frequently.  It helps them focus on things they enjoy together, and the time-limit is just long enough to get going, but not too long so as to start bickering.

Happy Playtime to all of you!

Originally published in LDSHE newsletter December 2015

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