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Playful Parenting: Learning To Be Playful With Your Kids

mother and daughter sticking out tongues in mirror by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

It’s easy to get stuck in a parenting rut, and let’s face it: parenting can sometimes feel a little like “Groundhog Day”— the same routines on repeat day in, day out. While routine and structure are incredibly important for our children (and us!) we can sometimes forget to have fun, according to BabyChick.

We feel tired and don’t have the energy to get down on the ground and play with our kids, or we’ve simply forgotten how to let go, be spontaneous and whimsical, and use our imaginations. However, playful parenting can be an important tool or approach when it comes to raising our children.

What Is Playful Parenting?

Do you have any vivid memories of childhood and your parent(s)? It was probably something magical or slightly outside of the ordinary that meant it was etched into your mind. Did you have a day where you built cubby forts together? Did you both take a day off school and work and go to the beach for ice cream? Playful parenting is about turning everyday moments into opportunities for play and connection. It emphasizes the use of humor, games, or imaginative play in everyday interactions and even as part of discipline.

Why Is Play Important?

Playfulness is important in the parent-child relationship because these kinds of interactions create strong bonds due to the creation of joyful members and emotional connections. Having positive experiences helps influence a child’s sense of security and attachment to their parents. Playfulness can also reduce stress in both parents and children. When we laugh and play, our body releases endorphins that improve mood and reduce stress levels.

Some Benefits of Playful Parenting include:

Creativity. When we allow children to explore their world without too much interference or rules (especially our grown-up idea of how toys should work or our notions of how to play with something “correctly”), they get to stretch their imaginations. They also learn how to solve problems or address challenges by getting creative and thinking outside the box.

Language. When children play pretend, especially role-play, they practice using worlds in different ways or try new things without the pressure of a formal learning or teaching moment. This lack of judgement and space allows them to play and practice without fear. They can change their words or language depending on their role, which further enhances language development.

Motor Skills. Play also allows kids to develop coordination and strength. They might kick a ball, jump, or crawl around pretending to be a tiger (gross motor skills). When they put on costumes, they’re practicing using zips or buttons, and during coloring, they’re practicing a pincer grip (fine motor skills). Play is full of incidental skills development opportunities!

Cognitive Flexibility. Children learn to be more flexible and adaptive as they shift and switch between games or characters as they play. This is sometimes referred to as “loose parts” play. It’s when children combine different types of play or use different materials or objects during play. It enhances and reinforce skills such as reasoning, problem-solving, executive functioning, and cognitive flexibility as children incorporate various elements in their play.