Playful and…parenting. Do those two words actually go together? In your home, if they don’t go together, they really need to. How often have your kids been loud and boisterous? And was your response some version of, “Okay. That’s enough. All of y’all just go outside and play.” If so, you just missed a very teachable moment. Instead of shushing them and getting them out of your hair, consider joining them in some playful parenting.
Educator and author Ravi Mishra brought this to mind in one of his recent LinkedIn posts. He notes, “As parents, we play a crucial role in shaping our children’s experiences and helping them grow into well-rounded individuals. One incredibly effective way to do this is through playful parenting.”
So, what is playful parenting? It involves infusing joy, creativity, and imagination into everyday interactions with our children. It's about engaging with them on their level, joining them in their world of make-believe, and creating opportunities for fun and laughter. Play is the language children understand best; let's speak it fluently and watch them thrive.
Playful parenting is most critical in your child’s formative years, from birth to age 5. That’s also the time where 80% of their personality is formed, primarily from your interactions with them and from your influence. However, it’s important to match your playful parenting to your child’s life stage. Elementary school, tweenage years, adolescence, and adulthood all offer opportunities for teachable moments with your children.
To be a meaningful part of your child’s play activity, your parenting stimulates five qualities of playful experiences. Your time with them is joyful, actively engaging, socially interactive, meaningful, and iterative. Let them take the lead in activity. Encourage their curiosity. Include their friends. As your child grows into the next stages of development, adjust your play activity to include team sports, and their interests in other activities, such as gymnastics, ballet, art, scouting, robotics, animatronics, gaming, and the like.
Benefits abound in the process of playful parenting. For your child, they gain cognitive, physical, emotional, and social benefits. For parents, you find yourself developing greater emotional bonding, more secure attachment, and greater trust between you and your child. You also gain insight into child development through your observations.
Finally, your sense of personal well-being grows from this positive interaction with your child.
Depending on your child’s age, you don't need fancy toys or expensive gadgets to embrace playful parenting. Everyday objects and your active presence are more than enough to create meaningful play experiences. Even the leftover boxes and crates of home purchases can be turned into robots, forts, and the like.
You are the most important part of your child's life. The greatest things you can offer are your time, attention, and imagination. Make time in your busy schedules for playful parenting with your children.