Having fun with your kids can help you connect, and create warm memories that last through years to come (even after they’re all grown up!). And, families who play together are happier (it’s official*). So, if you want to make the most of playtime, parenting expert and mum of two Jessica Joelle Alexander has 10 tips to help.
A child’s imagination has no limits, which means playtime has no limits either. It doesn’t matter how much time you have, the kind of space you’re in, or the type of toys in the toybox!
Having fun with your kids: The benefits of play
- Playtime offers a natural way for kids to learn and develop
- It fosters self-esteem, creativity, emotional skills and resilience (a focus right now)
- Playtime offers up moments of unbridled joy, surprise and laughter (for everyone!)
In these times, kids need play more than ever. With many of us facing unprecedented uncertainty, play might be just the antidote to stress we’ve been looking for. So, start having more fun with your kids and enjoy the chance to laugh and connect. Here’s how:
1. Make space in your day for play
The daily family routine can include a lighthearted, enjoyable game time which will lift kids spirits – and, making play part of your daily routine can help you leave your adult worries and To-Do list at the door! Aim for quality, so you’re fully present in the moment instead of distracted about what’s on the stove for dinner or an overdue email. Even if you only have 20 minutes to have fun with your kids, make it 20 minutes of quality time together.
2. Try adding fun to daily routines
Routines help children feel safe and secure, as they know exactly what to expect. But routines don’t have to be boring! Introduce elements of fun into your every day activities, and kids will enjoy feeling connected (and maybe pass the tradition on down the years to their families!)
- Pretend to be in a marching band when going to bed
- Sing special songs while getting dressed
- Play ‘Simon Says’ while brushing teeth
3. Mix up the places you play
Sometimes spaces or places to play are limited. But you can make play a fresh experience every time by discovering new places in the physical world, or expanding play into the digital world. Children are great at fluid play; they move seamlessly from physical play into the digital play world. Think about the types of activities that tap into this dual play, like using LEGO bricks in the real world but also bringing them to life in a virtual game. Mix up your play spaces and your child’s creativity will soar!
4. Stay active
Physical play can be hard at home, but it’s more important than ever if you’ve had the family cooped up. Movement burns off energy, is a natural mood booster and helps children develop gross motor skills. Looking for ideas for small spaces?
- Have a dance off
- A morning pillow fight
- Create a miniature obstacle course
5. Play something YOU enjoy, too!
Play is more fun for everyone if parents enjoy it as well as children. Whether it’s a favourite family boardgame, trying out a new craft or making paper planes, it’s much easier to pay attention and leave stress behind when you enjoy the play activity and can engage!
6. Try to make chores fun
Doing chores together can be playful and bring the family together, as well as helping parents out- if you introduce a playful approach! Try to make tasks fun; see who can tidy their room the fastest, or put on music sing your songs while washing up, or dance when it’s your turn laying the table.
7. Connect through digital play
Online games can be fun and bring people together. Even families that are separated can easily stay connected by playing online multiplayer games which can also help kids develop communication skills.
8. Use what you have
Kids don’t need lots of toys to be playful – they have amazing imaginations. They can turn an obstacle course made with pillows into an escape from crocodiles, or reimagine a cardboard box as a fantasy house, a ship or a puppet show stage. Find play activities that help you relax – Putting puzzles together, building LEGO DUPLO models (the DUPLO bricks are twice the size of ordinary LEGO bricks, so a good choice for younger bubs), colouring or even baking can be really relaxing as they help the whole family focus on the present moment and enter a state of mindfulness.
9. Connect don’t correct
Whatever activity you do as a family, try not to not correct your child too much. At a time of uncertainty, play is about having fun, and children will learn naturally from mistakes. Ask why they put that brick where they did, or whether they think the batter is mixed well enough. By being supportive, we can help foster resilience and a growth mindset.
10. Tune in
Many families are experiencing changes to their routine which can leave children feeling confused and unsettled – this is a completely normal response to uncertain times. Recognising this and tuning in to the mood of each member of the family can help us understand what kind of play is best for that moment.
*Source: LEGO Play Well Report, 2018 – global survey of 9,249 parents of children aged between 18 months and 12 years and 3,723 children aged between five and 12. Nine out of 10 families (88%) who play for five hours or more a week claiming to be happy, while, of those who play for less than five hours, seven out of 10 (75%) say they are happy.