What is play?
I'd say that to us it's doing the things we like doing, not the jobs we have to do. I am sure that there are better definitions, but it is one the boys understand.
I know some much more brilliant mums than me try and make anything their children do into games, so the actually enjoy cleaning their rooms etc. Maybe I am just bad at this or maybe my kids are too wise, but they are not kidded. Tidying, cleaning, helping lay and clear the table - all the stuff that they are expected to do daily - is not play. They are very clear about that. Some of it they like doing, especially Pup who loves to help people. Some they hate, especially Tigs who would rather go to the effort of stuffing his coat into a cupboard than hang it up on its peg.
My kids do play. I've heard that a lot of adopted children find it hard, especially if they have a very negative history. That isn't true here.
My boys play together. They play on their own. They play each and every moment of the day, given the chance. They love roleplay based on favourite TV characters. They love active sporty running jumping play. They love to ride anything with wheels. Quite often they are doing all of these at the same time. They play schools and they play 'babies'. Somedays they can both be persuaded to sit down and play a board game. Occasionally they will initiate a creative or art project.
They play like two 6 year olds. They fight like two 6 year olds. I am hoping that Pup will develop as Tigs develops, so he isn't left behind. Certainly we have big competition between the two of them as to who is in charge. Pup likes to be the boss of every aspect of his life, and as the eldest he likes to run the show. But Tigs is fiercely competetive. Tigs is also stronger and faster. Pup recognises this (usually without resentment). I'm not getting too far here into questioning why Pup is ... as he is. He has a serious medical condition, he has some emotional / mental / developmental issues, he is adopted. He is delayed in some areas, and this is one of them. It does affect him negatively. They came home indignant from school the other day. They'd been outside at lunchbreak playing some very physical wrestling type game, and a playground leader stopped them 'In case Pup hurt his little brother'. Both were furious. ("I wasn't hurting him!" "He wasn't hurting me!") It is actually a problem outside the family however, because Pup sees 6 year olds as his equals, and most 6 year olds see him as a big boy. He plays down to their level, and some of them find it very uncomfortable. Some of course love getting attention from an older child, and I find this sad as it reinforces his behaviour and makes him even less likely to play with his peers. He also gets hopelessly overexcited, so he overwhelms them.
Pup is almost always being some character from film or TV. I have to call him back often. "Pup, I'd like to talk to you now, not Cap'n Barnacle." Or he is way too busy rescuing a sea cucumber or putting out a fire.
They use play guns, and do play karate; but that is not real. Tigs hates real violence of all kinds. We were attending a live passion play recently, and in the scenes where Jesus was whipped and crucified he was in floods of tears. It was realistic, but not gory. Yes there were a lot of other small children there, half of whom were looking at Tigs in amazement. Yes we had warned Tigs in advance what to expect, explained that it wasn't real and given him the chance to cop out. I also offered to take him out if he didn't want to be there, or to cuddle him so he didn't have to watch. He stayed and watched.
Do I get involved? Not a lot. I have to step in when arguments get too vigorous or impinge on other people (or cats!) in the house. I'll join in the roleplay occasionally if they want me to. But when it goes wrong I'd rather let them sort out their own arguments. It's not as if one of them was dominant, so it is usually 'fair' if they sort out the disputes for themselves; and they need to develop their negotiating skills. And my philosophy with my kids is very much to let them make their own fun; especially as they get older. So when it is going right I'll just sit back and enjoy. I have memories of childhood when my sister and I had most fun with our games when Mum and Dad were not involved. Stories most kids tend to like reading are the onew where the kids do their own thing (with Mum and Dad safely hovering in the background, naturally!) I don't want to micro manage their lives, I'd like to produce two imaginative, self reliant people.
Of course we do stuff together. We fly kites, we race, the boys rough and tumble with Dad. I admire their handiwork and help when asked. I make sure they have supplies of whatever they need, be it craft stuff or lego (both rarely used), or balls, toy cars, bikes, child sized garden tools.....
But I am not their entertainer. I'm their Mum.