We all have at least one characteristic about our mothering that would have many calling us a Super Mom. It could be your constantly cheery disposition even in the face of epic meltdowns, or your ability to potty train your child in a day, or getting your kids to eat their vegetables with a smile on their face. I tend to feel like a super mom for how I am not afraid of playing with my kids in public and being a goof.
Maybe it’s because I’m a young mom, am (relatively) fit, or my personality, but I love playing with my kids. Of course every mom does. But, I’m talking about active, wild, fun, silly play. And in public.
Kids are the best educators on how to be a playful parent, if only we’d follow our children’s prompts.
I think actively playing, joking, and having fun with your kids, create the best memories! My father did play with his kids and is very goofy. The way he talked, joked, teased, and added play into his parenting and his life have created some of my fondest memories of him. He would let me ride around on his back, bounce me on his knee, race me into stores, or sing some silly songs. I also have awesome memories from playing and joking with many of my older siblings. There is just something special about active play, about movement, that creates happy, genuine feelings toward other people. And there’s something endearing about those who can be playful, who don’t take life, or themselves, so seriously.
However, I am not saying you need to drop everything you are doing to play with your child that very second, every single time, or that you should be an immature adult. No, what I am advocating is infusing fun, play, life, energy, and silliness into your parenting, into your life. I’m suggesting you take advantage of everyday things you already do, like taking your kids to the park, the pool, and the grocery store, and imbue them with a bit of creative playfulness. It’s about forgetting the to-do lists momentarily and being silly. It’s about creating some levity into your otherwise stressful parenting. Being silly, goofy, and fun will release some of those good happy hormones and relieve some stress.
I want everyone to find ways they can become that silly, fun, playful parent they’ve always wanted to be (or that they should want to be!). I think as overworked parents and individuals, we need it. So, start embracing your inner child, your inner goofball, and have some fun with your child. Below will find 55 (or so) ways of being a more playful parent.
Ways to Infuse Fun and Play Into Your Parenting
Stop saying “Run along and play” and Play Yourself
Don’t encourage them go ahead without you. Encourage them to beat you there. Stop taking your child to the park, and start playing at the park with them. I mean, fun is fun after all, so go ahead and play!
You don’t have to do this every time, as I do believe a child needs some space to be independent, but come on mom and dad! They want you to enjoy the playground too, and not because you got to check your phone for 30 minutes. So, don’t watch from the bench: slide down the slide or climb up it. Swing on the swings, independently or with your child on your lap. Show them how to jump off them; give your child an underdog, and when they are swinging, pretend like your child’s foot is kicking you.
Try to go across the monkey bars without touching the ground. Do some (fake) rock climbing. Show your child a cool trick like flipping over bars, and how you can talk through the “telephones.” Your kid will think you are so awesome. Bonus points if you start an imaginary situation for your child, preferably with pirates.
Get in the Pool. All the way in.
Not only should you go take your kids to the swimming pool, but you should actually get in the swimming pool! Stop ignoring your child’s pleas for you to get in the water, and stop worrying about improving your tan. Get in the pool, perhaps via an awesome cannonball, or an elegant swan dive. But, get your whole body wet, including your head. Don’t worry about your hair: worry about showing your kid how playing and having fun at the pool is done! Once in the pool, shoot hoops, dive for “treasures” at the bottom of the pool, play Marco Polo, host an underwater tea party, or flip your child off your hands and into the pool (assuming your child can swim for some of these). If you want your child to enjoy their childhood, occasionally you have to show them what being a child is all about.
3photo credit: geatchy via photopin cc.
Get Physical. Be Active.
Obviously, some of us have physical health issues and we can’t be as mobile or flexible as we would like. But, for the majority of us, some of the following will still be very doable, and I highly recommend. Go get your blood pumping. Plus, sports are a huge part of our culture. They are a great way to have fun and be active, all while developing new skills (like hand-eye coordination). And even if you don’t play a particular sport well, most likely you can at least fake it. Don’t wait for a coach to teach them how to dribble, shoot, kick, throw, or catch. Do it yourself. If not, you can show your child how to handle being bad at something. But, sports usually only require a simple ball, glove, raquet, or bat to make happen. And you can have some great conversation as you play catch, and feel good knowing you are working to develop those large gross motor skills.
- Roughhouse and wrestle with your child. Steamroller them. Make a monkey pile!
- Tickle your child. Let them tickle you.
- Blow on each others bellies. I think it is hilarious to when my young children blow raspberries on my tummy. Fart noises anyone?
- Give your child a piggy-back ride or put them on your shoulders.
- Twirl, spin, or toss them, jiggling and bouncing them as you go. These can all be done anytime, anywhere. It can make a mundane trip to the store much more exciting if you give your child a little twirl to the music playing in the store.
- Show them how to do a handstand, headstand, cartwheel, or somersaults, then help them do one themselves.
- Get on all fours and pretend to be a horse (or other animal) and let your child ride on your back, neighing and rearing up on your back legs.
- Have a race! Chase them up the hill, to the playground, on your bikes, to the car, or wherever. Don’t let them win every time.
- Throw them onto the bed.
- Swing your child between you and your spouse, lifting them high above the ground.
- Help them climb trees, and climb it with them.
- Play tag, freeze tag, or monkey freeze tag.
- Play Duck, Duck, Goose.
- Roll down hills.
- Actually go sledding.
- Jump! As high as you can, as far forward and backward as you can. Now jump on one foot.
- Throw them up into the air and catch them.
- Lift them up on your legs or drag them around as they sit on your feet.
- Go play in the rain and jump in rain puddles.
- Play with a Hula hoop
- Jump rope or do a little double dutch.
- Play with Yo-Yo’s
- Blow or make bubbles. Look up recipes on how to make giant ones.
- Draw with sidewalk chalk.
- Play some T-Ball, Softball, Baseball, or catch
- Go shoot some hoops and play a little Basketball. Challenge your child to a game of Around the World.
- Play some tennis. Courts are plentiful!
- Practice serves, volleys, and spikes as you play a little volleyball.
- Throw around a Frisbee. Try throw it overhead and forehand.
- Throw a football around in the backyard. Do some mini plans. Practice kicking.
- Set up a 4-Square court and make up some crazy rules!
- Play a little dodgeball.
Infuse Fun Into Work
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and chances are make him hate doing chores. The following are some great ways to get the job done and still enjoy and have fun in the process.
- A great way is to play some music! Dance, bounce to the music, sing-a-long, swipe to the beat, or sing into the mop handle. Music is great for everyone, and helps put you in a better mood as you clean up some grime.
- Or you can start some timers and make it into a race to see who can get their duties done first, or can be the first one to pick up X amount of items.
- Or you can make it into a game, shooting trash into the wastebasket, toys into the toy bins, dirty clothes into the laundry basket. You can even pick up the baskets or bins and sway or move them around so your child has a moving target.
- In the kitchen, don’t be afraid of a little mess, or a little food tasting, as you create a meal for your family. Throw a dash of flour into the air. Flip a pancake without the spatula.
- Have water fights in the bathroom as you clean up in there, or outside as you wash the car, or do yard work. Or as you cook in the kitchen.
Make errands fun in store and on the way there.
Errands with children in tow are not always so fun. That’s why you should infuse some fun into it! Race to the buildings. Pretend the shopping cart is a racecar and race it fast down the aisles, swerving the cart from side to side, making engine noises, and stopping on a dime. Obviously this works best with a young child in the seat of the cart, but I still think your kids will think you are pretty awesome, even without them attached to the cart (or horribly embarrassing, depending on your child’s age). You can can dance to the music playing throughout the store, giving your child a twirl or two, and maybe even doing one yourself. You can also let your child push the shopping cart, gently guiding it as needed. Maybe even see if you child can push it when you are standing on the front of it!
In stores you can also be a playful parent by pointing out some of the worst clothing, or trying on clothing that clearly won’t fit you (i.e. clothes that would fit your gradeschooler), or by putting on a silly hat. You could try out crazy colored makeup, put on loads of jewelry, and try on shoes that you would never buy.
And maybe, you could even play a game of hide n’ go seek among the racks of clothes, perhaps making it a bit like the Marco Polo game. Growing up, my sister and I would find each other in a store simply by baaing like a sheep back and forth. It was hilarious.
On your way to run your errands, there are so many fun ways to make that little car ride a little more fun. You can keep the windows rolled down on, even on the Interstate. You can blast music, sing at the top of your lungs, and do some serious headbanging. You can stick your hands out the window and wave to all the cars going the opposite direction, saying “Hi” as they pass. You can sing nursery rhyme songs, or ones you make up on the spot (I prefer making up songs about my children, or switching out words to a tune we all already know – my kids think it’s hilarious and then they make up their own in turn, which are even better). You can also swerve the car (small little twists of the steering wheel back and forth and of course only when safe to do so) on the road. My kids absolutely love it when I do this. You can also do fun things like lifting yours hands up as go over bridges, or holding your breath as you pass a graveyard. And honk the horn, and throw things like banana peels or apple cores out the window where they can biodegrade.
9. Other Awesomely Simple Ways to be a Playful Parent
- Laugh hysterically, obnoxiously, ominously. Have a laughing contest with your child.
- Get excited when you find a penny on the ground and have your child pick it up.
- Squeeze their hand when your holding it, just for fun.
- Don’t step on the cracks/lines when you walk.
- Have a funny faces contest.
- Make farting noises and burping noises.
- See who can hold out a sound/syllable the longest. (Kind of like the “Most Annoying Sound in the World.”)
- Scream. As loud as you can. Just do it while outside so as not to break your ear drums.
- Pick flowers (or flower-like weeds) with them!
- Lie down in the grass with your kid and look at the clouds rolling by, pointing out funny shapes.
- Pretend. Whatever your child wants to play and pretend, join in.
- Let your child brush your hair, put clips in it, mess it up, and put clips in it.
- Let your child paint your nails or do your makeup.
- Go wading in a creek.
- Throw leaves up into the air and jump into a leaf pile.
- Pick up rocks, and skip stones.
- Build a fort.
- Make something out of their LEGOs or Blocks
- Draw and Paint a picture with them
- Make up a story. Tell some tales.
This list could go on and on. I realize that many of these you may be doing these things already; or that these all just seem like fun activities to do with your kids. So, I want to emphasize that it’s not so much about scheduling in these activities, or making them happen, as I am not an advocate for forcing activities and events on your kid or over-scheduling “fun” times with them, all while saying “You will enjoy this!” (whether to yourself or your kid). Just keep some of these in mind and look for ways to incorporate play and fun in your life as organically, naturally, and spontaneously as possible.
Because, obviously you cannot do not do these things all the time,, and sometimes you may not want to: you may just want to have a moment to sit on the bench at the park and have a 10 minute break from your child. But, please, don’t remove the joy and fun out of your parenting, simply because it’s tiring, because you will feel foolish, or because you can’t stand certain activities. Try new things, be creative, embrace childishness occasionally, and you will inadvertently create some of the best memories you will ever have with your children, and likely an improved relationship.
How do you like to be a playful mom or dad? How are you infusing fun into your parenting?
If you still want some more ideas, check out Kids’ Activities Blogs post on 47 Ways YOU Can Be a Fun Mom!
Lauren Tamm says
This, my friend, is a totally AWESOME post! Tons of ideas here and no one walks away stumped or clueless about how to get started. I loved the picture…”no let’s bark like dogs” Seriously funny, yet such a true and genuine way to have a little fun instead of yelling, “get your head back in the car and be quiet!” I also find that trying to be silly and fun release stress for ME. It makes me feel happier too, in addition to kids feeling happier.
When I find a blog obnoxious, ill-informed, or otherwise offensive, I leave the page without another thought, but this post annoyed me enough to respond. The writer of this blog seems like a smug, self-important, judgemental, first-time parent. Attempting to bestow their wisdom to all the parents, who s/he finds lacking. You’re one of the worst, believing that you are the exception, instead of the norm. You assume that an exhausted parent, who doesn’t jump on the monkey bars with their kid, doesn’t measure up, when you don’t stop to consider the notion that the parent has been playing for hours. The intro to this blog was literally, “you other parents are terrible, I’m better, let me tell you how to relate….” which was unnecessary since the subject was, “how to play like a kid with your kid,” and provided no insight, just reminders that the author plays like a kid with their kid, something we all do but don’t feel the need to brag about or feel sanctimonious or superior for doing. Honestly, this article reminded me why I don’t try to make friends with the other Moms,. They can be the absolute Worst.
Katelyn Fagan says
Kelly – I am so sorry you took my post this way. Was not the intent. I am NOT a first time mom. I actually have three kids, including twins, so I understand the exhausting parenting thing. And I never feel the need to brag or feel superior for doing something fun with my kids. The thing about being a blogger, is you are always walking a fine line between helpful and coming across as braggy. I like to share what works with my family in the hopes that it can help others, but some can take it as a “I know best” attitude, which is not what I think at all. I am still learning a lot on this journey called motherhood. I strive for a sense of humility in what I write, but apparently that did not read to you in this post. I don’t think people who aren’t playing with their kids are terrible or that they aren’t relating to their kids. I wanted the post to serve as a reminder to tired, perhaps super stressed, parents of some ways to infuse fun and release stress into their parenting, especially those who may have been neglecting that aspect for a long time. Apparently, you are not one of those parents and are doing just fine. Thanks for reading.
Katelyn, I loved your article as I have a quality time love language kiddo and as fun loving as I am, I really struggle to fill his tank. Thank you for writing this smattering of quick wins, I need a list in my pocket! Im sure you know how to deal in your heart with these negative comments left here, just wanted to chime in quickly and say, you’re doing a fantastic job, we are all learning to communicate what is really inside of us, and THANK YOU! for stepping out and using your voice rather than standing on the side lines wondering if you’re ready, and being frozen in comparison of yourself to the voices already risking criticism. Go girl!
Kelly, I had the same thoughts as you about this article.
Although obviously in the minority, and although I agree with the basic sentiment of this article, I also felt like the author had a smug, self-righteous attitude that left a bad taste in my mouth. Just my humble opinion.
Wow, Kelly, I totally didn’t get that feeling from reading this. Yikes, if that is your read on this article and on people and relationships in general, I do wonder what memories your children will have of you.
It’s important to me to be playful with my child before the time is gone. When my task list is burdensome, I have trouble identifying and making the most of these opportunities; which, in turn, perpetuates a bad attitude and my stress. You reminded me of fun things we have enjoyed in the past and listed some fun ideas for use later. Rather than feeling, overwhelmed, your post has refreshed my radar. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to enjoy my child! Thanks!!
LOVE this! We get so busy being MOM that we forget the fun– awesome and easy ways to just enjoy the moments- thanks
I admit I’m probably only 50% of a playful parent. I’m pretty silly and goofy when the opportunity presents itself, but I also see the benefit of letting kids be and not playing with them at the playground all the time. They need to find friends, explore on their own, challenge themselves without relying on mom and dad for entertainment. My usual silliness is at home where I’ll bust out funny dance moves or get silly with my kids when they’re laughing like crazy.
I don’t think I’m the parent though that has NO fun (weirdly I’m thinking of Kevin’s dad in The Wonder Years lol!) but I totally let my kids take the lead at the playground (e.g. I’ll spot them or help them climb but not necessarily go into the play structure with them).
Still, I think it’s great for parents to have fun, if even for the parents’ benefit! A lot of stern discipline actually doesn’t work compared to playfully parenting them. And what a great list of ideas, Katelyn!
Katelyn Fagan says
Thanks Nina! Love the Wonder Years reference. Ha ha. I don’t play with my kids every time we go to the playground, for a lot of the same reasons you mention, but I’m definitely not above it. Especially when they are the only kids there, because that is usually when they are asking for me to play with them. I think playing with the kids is for the parents’ benefit for sure! Glad you enjoyed the list.
Deonna at the Child at Heart blog says
I pinned this the other day and LOVE it! I swim with my son and husband every time we go to a hotel and it makes me sad seeing the moms (in their swimsuits) sitting on the chairs looking at their phones. Come on get in!!! haha We just bought a trampoline for our little son and I think I’m way more excited than he will be 🙂 Subscribed because I can’t wait to hear more!
Katelyn Fagan says
Trampolines are so much fun, as is swimming with the kids. Thanks for subscribing. 🙂
I loved the list of ideas, thank you for taking the time to write and share them. It’s funny how you talk about your mother not playing with you, but your father being the one. That is the way it was in my house as well. Now that I am an adult with a family of my own, I realize that my mother was probably busy with housework after coming home (which was a full-time job in of itself). BUT, even though I do the bulk of the chores in my home as well, I also want to be remembered by my child as someone who played with them, so I do try to make time to play every day. With my son, with my spouse, and also alone doing things I enjoy. I do sit on the sidelines when I am tired, but I make a conscious effort to play when I can. I think the reason a lot of moms aren’t as playful (and not all of them, just some and maybe me included) is that caregiving takes a LOT of energy and mother’s are simply exhausted from their job, caregiving, and housework, with very little free time to recharge themselves.
Katelyn Fagan says
Absolutely Erin! It does take a lot of energy to work, take care of kids, and complete all the housework. But, the great thing about being silly and fun is that it often recharges you a little bit too, because it releases some of that stress! Good luck with this parenting thing. And have some fun. 🙂
Good ideas and plenty to consider, if a little sanctimonious and patronising in the delivery- intended or not. Read this more for reassurance than anything, pretty sure I do this anyway. Some days it comes naturally other days I have to force the smile but hey it’s all about memories! My mum rarely played and when she did I thought something was wrong! Those memories are anxious and uneasy whereas my memories of her reading with me or teaching me important life lessons or having an adult conversation with me or making traditions special those things leave find memories. Each to their own, not all kids wanna be silly either. I have one bundle of craziness and one cautious careful and considerate child. My ball of crazy is always down for silly whereas my cautious child often prefers reading books or having a long cuddle or helping me with the chores but he wants to do them properly! If I try introducing a “new fun way” to do laundry he isn’t interested! He finds joy in completing a task like how mummy would do it! There is no list in the world that will cover everyone’s situation.
Katelyn Fagan says
Sorry for any sanctimonious and patronizing delivery. Totally can see how it came across that way. Ugh. I’m not really that way in person. And you make a very good point. Some kids probably don’t really care about having the “fun mom” or fun ways of doing tasks. I think personalities do play a large part in how silly we naturally are, or how silly we are with a certain child. So far mine all seem to be some big old goofballs. Ha ha ha.
playground structures says
Thanks for sharing. When kids spend more time outdoors, they get to understand their environment better.
Drea Hatch says
This is fantastic! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all these down and share them.
I just had my third and have been really struggling to play with my kids. I am for SURE going to try some of these ideas out, and I’ll save it for future reference, too!
Heidi A Taljaard says
Wow, I am thankful for this list! I don’t think it’s about coming across as smug but lending some of your strengths, as you said-we all have our strengths and we can all give something to others and learn something from others! This list actually made me laugh at one point-I am one of those parents who needs to be reminded to “lighten up” and as my oldest starts playschool tomorrow it’s a stark reminder that childhood passes all too quickly and we need to make the most of these days-and learning from others is one way to do that! I appreciate this and look forward to doing some silly things with my babies tomorrow! 🙂
Great ideas! Thanks for sharing!
Michelle Moodispaw says
I am just finding this article several years later and found it fun and helpful. For those of us who didn’t grow up in a silly home being silly doesn’t come naturally and we need some guidance. I didn’t find it preachy or self-righteous at all and I was rather appalled by those who felt the need to comment rather than just moving on. You were a good sport to respond so graciously. Thanks for the article and thanks for putting yourself out there at the risk of criticism by some to help others.
Katelyn Fagan says
Thanks Michelle! Glad you enjoyed it! Good luck being a little more silly. 😉
Awesome, helpful article 🙂
Silly commenters were being ridiculous.
Thanks for posting!