The research indicates that children whose parents who actively utilize playful parenting strategies also have significantly healthy and strong bonds with their parents. It is also found that children whose parents engage in playful parenting have stronger bonds with other children.
I have found over the years providing play therapy services for children and families that helping parents develop habits of bringing play into their daily interactions with their children has had a profoundly positive effect on the quality of the parent-child relationship and has supported the child’s progress in therapy.
Here are 6 playful parenting strategies. . .
- Silly is as silly does. Practice silly voices, silly faces and silly movement on the daily! The more you practice being silly the more naturally it will come to you and using silliness is a sure way to distract or redirect your child when she’s exhibiting undesirable behavior. Silly play invites your child to join in, to giggle, to laugh together.
- Anything can turn into a puppet. Puppet play is something we utilize in play therapy to help children learn a new concept, explore emotions or give voice to feelings that more easily expressed one step removed. Parents can turn any object into a talking character to help motivate a child to cooperate or help a child express. Need your child to put his shoes on to get out the door? Pick up a shoe and use a funny voice to make the shoe talk to the child, “Hey there Johnny! I’m ready to give your tootsies a hug! I’m ready to go to school with you!” Or if your child seems disappointed or sad you can grab a doll or a stuffed animal and have the toy wonder out loud what the child is feeling. If you need your child to brush her teeth, let the toothbrush tell her, “I’d like to tickle your teeth and count how many teeth you have in there!”
- Routine tasks can be fun games. Time to clean up the play room? Bring on the silly, dramatic voice and posture and act like a big game announcer. “Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the clean up race! We are setting the super-dee-duper clock for 1 minute! How many toys can you put away before the clock’s buzzer goes off? Read…. Set…. GO!” At the grocery store and wanting to avoid the boredom melt-down? Invite your child to play “I spy” as you roll through the grocery store. Or turn the grocery list into a scavenger hunt with photos of all the items you need to buy and invite your child to help you find them as you go down the aisles.
- Set aside special play time. In the work of play therapy we often train parents to engage in something called filial therapy that helps parents and children have an enhanced bond. You can borrow from this model by assigning a 30 minute window of time with a special bin of a variety of toys and art supplies and get down on the floor with your child. Set the timer for 30 minutes and during this time allow your child to choose to play with the toys and supplies anyway he wishes. You join with him but let him direct the play. This is his time to be in charge and to make choices. The only time you would redirect or set a limit is when safety is an issue or it’s time for the 30 minutes to come to a close. Following your child’s play by tracking out loud and reflecting what you notice without correction or judgment will do wonders for your relationship.
- Bounce or toss a ball. As simple as it sounds, bouncing a ball back and forth on the driveway, in the garage, or in the kitchen can be a wonderful way of engaging and connecting with your child. I like to have balls of all sizes on hand for the children I work with as this is a favorite go to for connecting. You can use a beach ball or a bumpy ball for tossing indoors and outside you can have fun with a kick-ball.
- Have a sing and dance party. Crank up the tunes, sing along and dance around the room. This “big body movement” along with music is healthy for everyone in every way. It’s a great way to transition from play time to getting out the door or from dinner time to bath time.
Look for every opportunity each day to make the mundane activities into playful connection time with your child. Do you have ideas for how to use playful parenting? Share in the comments below!