Tips for Playfulness and Roughhousing

I have been trying some new playful parenting tools. Play is an amazing connector of hearts and creator of laughs, two really important and valuable things! It just does not always come naturally for me.

One thing that does help, though, is a good list of starting points!  My sources for these ideas: Hand in Hand Parenting‘s wonderful resources, and the books Playful Parenting and the Art of Roughhousing. Share more ideas with me in the comments or on Facebook in my Parenting by Connection group.

 1   Tune in, don’t swoop in. This kind of playfulness is about connection. It is important that your child has the upper hand in the power balance. At the same time, it is such a good chance to pay close attention to cues. It is vital that you honor this.   

2  Think of ways to be silly. Look for any possible avenue. Go way over board on this. Some examples: Pretend you forgot what day it is, or that you are mixed up about the way to pronounce something. Hold the homework paper upside down while trying to figure it out. With toddlers, especially, any thing that produces laughter is a winner.

3  Play may lead to big feelings. Tears or upset during or after play times are ok! It does not mean you did it wrong. Listen to the feelings that come up and stay present. In fact: sometimes imperceptible and even imaginary hurts can come up during play, and respond as if they are real and important.

4  Careful but not too much caution. It is good and so important to be safe. When doing active play like a pillow fight, choose your space with this in mind, and remove any potential hazards.  At the same time, try not to project an overly cautious attitude. When kids see that you are attentive to safety but also trust their play, it’s an incredibly powerful message. This is a big step towards resilience.

5  Don’t tickle. It is an uncomfortable feeling that takes power away. Parents generally have more power so it is valuable to invert that relationship in play.

 6 Use Listening Time to get support. Save your responses and use the support of another person or listener, that is the place to process your annoyance, anxiety or frustration about parenting.

Connected Classrooms

I have been thinking about classrooms and early learning centers. So many kiddos spend a lot of time in this setting. At the same time, teachers and policy makers are talking about kindergarten readiness. So here is the question: what can we do to improve learning for our little ones? What I think of, in response to ‘kindergarten readiness’, is NOT knowing the alphabet or memorizing the names of colors. Being really ready for kindergarten means that a child has some sense of how to self-regulate,  is able to communicate needs, and to be independent in some tasks.

These things all become possible when we are connected with our students.

As Patty Wipfler writes in the Hand in Hand Parenting course Building Emotional Understanding, “Children’s brains don’t come fully developed. They are wired to develop their intelligence IN RELATIONSHIP with their parents and caring adults.” How can we create connection in the classroom, to support children’s intelligence?


As a parent, I use the tool special time, a dedicated, proscribed time period, decided in advance, where I provide extra warmth and eye contact, and try to promote laughter, without tickling. This tool really is so effective to build a strong feeling of safety and connection with my child. In the classroom, we don’t always have time to give that one on one focus. Instead, a few moments of focus, when we can delight in a child and let the child take the lead can serve to create more warmth and connection.

Every day, I see teachers:

  • Responding to our students in a way that shows the care that we feel
  • Listening to upsets
  • Setting limits with warmth
  • Avoiding harshness

These connected behaviors make such a difference. The list above is just to get us started- I would love to hear what works in the classrooms in your community.  Please use the comments section to share your ideas.

A quote from one of my favorite books and something I try to remember:

“A culture versed in the workings of emotional life would encourage and promote the activities that sustain health—togetherness with one’s partner and children; homes, families, and communities of connectedness. Such a society would guide its inhabitants to the joy that can be found at the heart of attachment…The contrast between that culture and our own could not be more evident.” A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., Richard Lannon, M.D., page 209